I’ve got some historical fiction for y’all today. I feel like it’s been a while!
Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
My Edition: ARC Paperback – 310 pages – publication expected in April 2019 – Harper Perennial – ISBN: 9780062895448
I won a copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for my honest review.
Mattie Simpkin was very active in the women’s suffrage movement – she was jailed multiple times, but always kept fighting the good fight – and in her middle-age she’s decided to teach young girls how to be active physically, mentally and politically. Inspired by an old friend who has joined the wave of Fascism, Mattie dubs her group the Amazons and encourages outdoor activities, women’s history, free thinking and independence in her girls. But when a new girl joins the group, Mattie learns that her past wasn’t as golden as she remembers; as everything comes crashing down around her, Mattie will have to look at life and those around her differently if she wants to keep up with the present.
This book reminded me that I don’t read enough historical fiction, especially of the more recent kind. Yes, this book is set in the late 1920s and I’m considering that recent – at least, compared to reading about the Tudors or Marie Antoinette, which is my usual fare.
A blurb on the cover (I’m not sure if this will make it to the final design) calls this book “Moving, funny…A delight from start to finish,” and I couldn’t say it better myself. Mattie is a real card. She’s fierce, full of energy and has a cracking wit. She’s also bull-headed and doesn’t always think before she speaks or acts. Flaws like this make her believable. She’s a character that I would very much want to know, even in our current times, as I think she’d be just as politically and socially active now.
The surrounding characters, while not as bold, bright and loud as Mattie, are by no means weaker. The Flea (not a flattering nickname for a loveable character), Mattie’s long-suffering friend, is fierce in her own quiet way. She does her best to keep Mattie grounded and I loved imagining the pair of them in their home, the Mousehole, which I believe would have a wonderfully cluttered and lived-in feel.
I chuckled at various scenes, was invested in the characters and enjoyed the bittersweet ending. I certainly need to read more of Evans’s work. If you like historical fiction, specifically set in post-World War I-era London, definitely pick this one up!