Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett – author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Man with the Horn and other books

What We Thought: This is a very loud book! Matty Simpkin bounds onto the page and makes herself heard wherever she is and whatever she is doing. Mattie and her friend Florrie Lee (known as The Flea) live near Hampstead Heath in The Mousehole, so called because the house was once a refuge for suffragettes released under the Cat & Mouse Act.

Both Mattie and The Flea were members of the WSPU before the Great War. In 1918 an act was passed giving the vote to property-owning females over the age of thirty. It is now 1928 and a new bill is about to extend suffrage to all women over 21, even those who are not property owners.

Though still active - giving talks about the movement with The Flea's assistance - Mattie feels she wants to do more. Another former suffragette has started up an organisation for boys and girls which Mattie considers to be verging on the fascistic - uniforms and marching are involved. She determines to start her own group - a more freethinking outfit to be called The Amazons. Mattie wants to encourage young women and girls to be fit, healthy and knowledgeable so as to be able to use their votes wisely.

She recruits Ida, a former cloakroom attendant who has been dismissed, and puts notices up for more members. The group becomes successful, with The Amazons gallivanting all over the Heath learning physical skills while ingesting Mattie's teaching on a wide range of subjects.

However, when Inez joins things start to go wrong. Mattie knew Inez's dead mother, Violetta, and comes to believe that the girl's father may not be who she believes he is. She favours Inez again and again, thereby putting the other girls' noses out of joint. On one disastrous summer's day Mattie acts against her own better judgement and loses the respect of the Amazons and, ultimately, her friendship with The Flea.

Beautifully written, vibrant, witty and sad, this book explores the disappointments of nepotism and the way a fond memory of someone may not be the whole truth.

I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Avoid If You Dislike: Accounts of women’s lives.

Perfect Accompaniment: Gooseberry jam and a cup of tea.

Genre: Literary/General Fiction

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