Hazel Gaynor’s A Memory of Violets is an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two little sisters – orphaned flower sellers – and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.
Set in 1876 among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, the story follows the lives of Irish sisters, Flora and Rosie Flynn, who sell posies of violets and watercress to survive.
It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by the presence of each other. However, when they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.
The book then moves on to 1912 when 21-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls.
For years, the home has cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, taking them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start; a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her sister.
Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie but the search will not be easy.
Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
At the heart of the story is the love between two sisters and through her characters, Hazel allows the reader explore a side of London - the flower sellers - that they might not be familiar with.