Book Reviews

Imagining Violet

By Mary E. Hughes

Imagining Violet  


Pages: 254

Publisher: First Choice Books

Date Reviewed: December 20, 2018

Release Date: December 1, 2018



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Imagining Violet is a fascinating look into a young woman's life in the 19th century as she learns about herself and the world around her. The reader joins Violet as she takes the plunge into the new and exciting world of studying in Europe. Mary E. Hughes takes an interesting approach when showcasing the life of Violet, by using personal letters to family and friends. With the element of historical truth to the narrative, the reader truly feels like they have travelled back in time and are experiencing everything with Violet.

This novel has a true coming of age narrative that will certainly appeal to the modern young adult who may be going through similar trials in their lives. Even though the characters live in the 1800's, the emotions and often the situations Violet faces are quiet relatable. For example, leaving home for the first time to study for years in a strange town/country is something most young adults go through by attending university. Therefore the reader cannot help but see part of themselves in the character and leave them wondering just how they would deal with their situations over two centuries ago.

While in some letter or diary constructed novels the reader will only be able to get one side of the story, leaving aspects of circumstances with huge holes this doesn't happen in Imagining Violet. Of course the reader only sees the letters that Violet writes but due to the comprehensive nature of the correspondence there is nothing missing from the overall story. In fact because Mary E. Hughes chose to showcase not only Violet's communications with her family but also with the friends, and even her romantic interest, that she made during her years studying in Europe, the reader gets to experience every aspect of the experiences that she lived through. This makes the novel a truly unique and interesting read as the character of Violet develops and begins to speak candidly about her emotions with her friends while she is unable to do so with her parents; thus creating a multifaceted story and experience for the reader.

Through the use of letters Mary E. Hughes coveys a wealth of emotions that the reader has no doubt experienced in their life. Everyone at some point in their lives have thought that they were destined for greatness, had dreams that they were truly focused on achieving, only to see life throw them a curve ball and they have to find a new way in life. This is no different in Violet's life as her dreams of being on the stage are dashed and she has to find a new way to find happiness; this journey of self-discovery is truly inspiring not only to witness but will no doubt also impact the reader's life.

While the author's work is relatable to a modern audience she has not lost the historical element throughout the narrative. This attribute works two-fold; it casts a light on the society for a woman in 1800's while also showing that people can still face the same complications and emotions today in their lives. Mary E. Hughes has carefully entwined the 19th century life into her story allowing the reader to step back into the past and become completely immersed in the fictional world. She leaves no little detail out when she mentions a whole host of historical information, such as the conservatory, where she studies, being founded and even the specific operas that were attended.

Overall, this novel allows the reader to experience a time and a society in a way that the history books don't. Mary E. Hughes has created a truly wonderful and insightful piece of historical fiction, which will no doubt be enjoyed for years to come by all ages.


"Kiss Birdie for me and the boys if they will bear it. They will be quite changed by the time I see them at Christmas. And a warm hug for dear Papa. I look forward to having a letter from him too."

About the Author - Mary E. Hughes




Born in Toronto, Canada and educated there, Mary Hughes came to writing fiction by a long and circuitous route. Early careers in theatre in the UK and Canada and television production in Canada, were followed by several years in association management where she acquired skills in marketing, public relations, meeting planning and editing. Concurrent with those activities she began to research and write FRANK WELSMAN, CANADIAN CONDUCTOR (2006), an effort to correct the accepted history of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Next up was an account of her amazing life aboard a floating house in the inner harbour of Victoria, B.C. There were many good stories to tell and so she wrote THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE FLOATHOUSE ZASTROZZI. At the same time Ms. Hughes was producing dozens of articles for various trade magazines as well as producing and editing newsletters. About ten years ago she acquired a copy of the inside cover of her grandmother's Bible. Violet Courtenaye had recorded some key facts about her early life and one was entirely fascinating. "Went to Germany, May 1891", wrote 16 year old Violet. This was an irresistible invitation to explore Violet's world and to imagine her life. Ms. Hughes makes her home on Salt Spring Island with her husband Dr. Alan Hughes. Between them they have six children and six grandchildren. Taking up the violin was part of her research and she now plays with a small, amateur, string ensemble. Connect with her at her blog.



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