October Book Review - "This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing"
Jacqueline Winspear’s first foray into non-fiction is a beautiful and searing memoir of her childhood growing up in postwar England. It has an apt title for today’s pandemic-ridden world, This Time Next Year We’ll be Laughing.
Years ago, I worked at Dolly’s Bookstore. I remember a particular author, Jacqueline Winspear, stopping in for a book signing of one of the books in her Maisie Dobbs series. At the time, I didn’t know who she was. How I wish I could meet her now and gush about how much I love ALL of her books! Part of the appeal of Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series are the descriptions of London and the English countryside, featuring vividly drawn particulars that feel like they were written with firsthand knowledge of that era. In her first work of non-fiction, This Time Next Year We’ll be Laughing, the author shares the inspiration for her heroine Maisie Dobbs as she reflects on her upbringing in postwar England. She also chronicles her parent’s later years--after she’d moved to the United States--and how painful and difficult it was to try to care for aging parents from 3,000 miles away.
Winspear delivers a deeply personal memoir of her family’s history. As a child, she heard her father say “This time next year, we’ll be laughing” all too often, unfortunately, to encourage his young family that they would get through some pretty hard times, but the hard times seemed to keep on coming. Winspear reflects on her “parent’s war” - WWII- and how their traumatic experiences impacted her own childhood spent in the mostly idyllic landscape of Southeast England. She focuses a lot of attention on her parents’ lives and their struggles supporting a young family, as they chose to live far removed from their London pasts. She writes, “My parents left the bombsites and memories of wartime London for an openness they found in the country and on the land.” Both uncomfortably frank and skillfully restrained, her story tackles the difficult, poignant, and fascinating family accounts of her grandfather’s WWI shellshock; her mother’s evacuation from London during the Blitz; her gentle father’s traumatic assignment to an explosives team as a pretty young boy, during WWII; and Winspear’s own childhood picking hops and fruit on farms in rural Kent, capturing both her ties to the land and her dream of being a writer. Winspear invites readers into each moment with rich and vivid descriptions. I could smell the fragrance of the hops she picked as a child and feel her terror as she hid under the bed when she heard the distant rumble of an airplane engine--a generational trauma she’d inherited from her mother’s childhood during the London bombings.
There are a whopping 16 books in the Maisie Dobbs series about a plucky, WWI nurse turned detective. However, you don’t have to know anything about Maisie Dobbs to fall in love with this thoughtful literary memoir binding significant world events and intimate childhood moments of both joy and hardship. As a student of WWII British history, a Maisie Dobbs fangirl, and a daughter whose father will soon turn 91, this book checked every box for me. It’s a beautiful meditation on family and place, a lovely, thoughtful memoir. It reminded me that there are hard times for all of us and somehow we keep waking up every morning and manage to make it through. And hopefully, especially now, “this time next year, we’ll be laughing.”
You can find this book at and our local libraries. This is Kirsten Nilsson, Summit County’s children’s librarian.