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Old Baggage

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What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world? It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gav What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world? It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement. Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for. Old Baggage is a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never, never given up the fight.


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What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world? It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gav What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world? It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement. Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for. Old Baggage is a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never, never given up the fight.

30 review for Old Baggage

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    It's 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across an old wooden club - an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie (Matilda) was a militant during the Women's Suffrage Campaign. She has given speeches, marched, smashed windows, she's even heckled Winston Churchill. You name it and Mattie has probably done it. She's even been jailed five times. Twirling the wooden club, she has an idea, but is it a good one? Mattie feels she has no purpose in life. She's now It's 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across an old wooden club - an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie (Matilda) was a militant during the Women's Suffrage Campaign. She has given speeches, marched, smashed windows, she's even heckled Winston Churchill. You name it and Mattie has probably done it. She's even been jailed five times. Twirling the wooden club, she has an idea, but is it a good one? Mattie feels she has no purpose in life. She's now middle aged and feels she is seen by others as old baggage. When Mattie meets an old suffragette friend who is now a facist, Mattie decides to take on a new challenge. Although this story can be a bit slow in oaerts, it can also be engaging and funny in others. It is quite informative on the facts about the suffragettes lives. You can't help but like Mattie, a wonderful character. She makes mistakes but is not afraid to fight for what she believes in. I would like to thank NetGalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishing and the author Lissa Evans for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Mattie Simpson has appeared in a previous novel, “Crooked Heart,” and I was delighted to meet up with her again. It is 1928 and Mattie is living in Hampstead Heath with Florrie Lee, ‘the Flea.’ Both were heavily involved in the suffragette movement and Mattie still gives talks about women’s rights. The story begins when Mattie, striding across the Heath, has her bag stolen. Attempting to stop the thief, she accidentally hurts young Ida Pearse, who later threatens to press charges, due to loss of Mattie Simpson has appeared in a previous novel, “Crooked Heart,” and I was delighted to meet up with her again. It is 1928 and Mattie is living in Hampstead Heath with Florrie Lee, ‘the Flea.’ Both were heavily involved in the suffragette movement and Mattie still gives talks about women’s rights. The story begins when Mattie, striding across the Heath, has her bag stolen. Attempting to stop the thief, she accidentally hurts young Ida Pearse, who later threatens to press charges, due to loss of work. Flo manages to smooth things over and offers Ida work in their house – especially as she has had more than enough of their daily, Mrs Bowling. Women may have won the vote, but there is no doubt that they are still suffering from a lack of equality. Mrs Bowling seems to think it is hardly worth her time to ‘do’ for two spinsters, but Mattie fears that the next generation lack political insight. She is, initially, pleased to come across and old comrade, Jacqueline Fletcher. However, when it becomes clear that Jacqueline is involved with fascism, and wants to recruit Mattie for the cause, Flo leaves abruptly. Despite the fact that neither woman are entranced by European fascism. Mattie is stung by criticism that she does little more than dabble and throws herself into the Hampstead Heath Girl’s Club. However, it soon becomes clear that others are also keen to influence young minds… This is a clever, thought provoking novel. I enjoyed reading about the indomitable Mattie and it did make you think about what the suffragettes (and indeed, suffragists) did once the vote had been won. A nice novel to celebrate the 1918 centenary and full of great characters. I received a copy of the book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  3. 3 out of 5

    Cathy

    In many ways the title, Old Baggage, gives a clue to themes explored in the book. For example, some of those who come into contact with Mattie Simpkin, with her no-nonsense attitude and forthright manner, would probably regard her as a bit of an ‘old baggage’. Mattie believes in the benefits of physical exercise, the great outdoors and that, despite the changes brought about by the women’s suffrage movement, the fight needs to carry on if women are to achieve true equality. As she says: “The bat In many ways the title, Old Baggage, gives a clue to themes explored in the book. For example, some of those who come into contact with Mattie Simpkin, with her no-nonsense attitude and forthright manner, would probably regard her as a bit of an ‘old baggage’. Mattie believes in the benefits of physical exercise, the great outdoors and that, despite the changes brought about by the women’s suffrage movement, the fight needs to carry on if women are to achieve true equality. As she says: “The battle is not yet over; every day brings fresh skirmishes.” The reader can’t help but admire Mattie’s spirit, whilst at the same time admitting it might be quite exhausting to live with her. Luckily Mattie has Florrie, nicknamed The Flea. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Florrie who is, to my mind, the most sympathetic figure in the book. Her contribution to making the lives of women better is achieved through actions rather than words. In her role as a health visitor, she dispenses practical advice about domestic problems and the rearing of children to women often living in poverty and poor housing. Florrie is Mattie’s most loyal supporter, her self-appointed ‘shield-bearer’. Florrie understands Mattie’s moods and is able to exercise a restraining influence on her wilder schemes, schemes that, as with early motor cars, often require ‘someone to precede her with a red flag’. There’s plenty of emotional ‘old baggage’ in the book too. The legacy of past actions from their campaigning days in the suffragette movement looms large in the lives of some of Mattie’s and Florrie’s comrades. The government’s response to their protests – imprisonment, force-feeding – has wrought physical and psychological damage in some cases. In addition, Mattie discovers an unexpected legacy of those years much closer to home – ‘a hand from the past, reaching out to grasp hers’. In trying to set right what she sees as the mistakes of the past, she acts in a way that is completely out-of-character and that will have unforeseen consequences. Unfortunately, what Mattie doesn’t realise is that she’s not the only one with emotional ‘old baggage’. Old Baggage is a touching depiction of female friendship, a rallying cry for women’s equality and for setting your sights high in life. As Mattie concludes, ‘Better, always and ever, to raise one’s eyes to the road ahead’. I really enjoyed it. (By the way, I reckon Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench would make a marvellous Mattie and Florrie in a film version.) I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Doubleday, and NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I've finished Old Baggage and I am bereft! This is beautiful, beautiful writing with characters that live and breathe. I loved Mattie in Crooked Heart. How wonderful to spend more time with her. I just hope we meet her again. This is a gorgeous, warm novel and I can't recommend it enough. Review to follow very shortly on For Winter Nights.

  5. 5 out of 5

    ❀⊱Rory⊰❀

    My first five star read of the year! A delight! Lissa Evans in a genius when it comes to characterization. No one can touch her.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen Mace

    What an astonishing book!! In Matilda Simpkins, there is a character with so much depth and background to explore - it's just that she has reached a point in her life where her past was a million more times exciting than her present! She used to be part of the suffragete movement and her time fighting for the rights of women saw her jailed a number of times, attending numerous marches and even heckling Churchill. And now in middle age she finds nothing even comes close to recreating that buzz an What an astonishing book!! In Matilda Simpkins, there is a character with so much depth and background to explore - it's just that she has reached a point in her life where her past was a million more times exciting than her present! She used to be part of the suffragete movement and her time fighting for the rights of women saw her jailed a number of times, attending numerous marches and even heckling Churchill. And now in middle age she finds nothing even comes close to recreating that buzz and spark in her. The only enjoyment she seems to get out of life nowadays is passing on advice to neighbours - whether they want it or not!! When she finds herself under the watch of the police again after a street robbery, she soon finds a new way of feeling involved in the world and inspiring a new generation of young girls to be educated and feel inspired to think more of themselves as she starts a Girls Club on Hampstead Heath, teaching them a variety of skills. There are a number of other important characters we get to meet along the way - from Florrie 'The Flea' who lives with Mattie and is a dear friend and a calming influence on her friend, to Ida who is a young girl whose family expect very little from her other than to cook for her brothers at home, and they tease her when she shows an interest in wanting more out of life and for herself. I found this to be such an inspiring read. We take so much for granted nowadays as women and it is always eye-opening to go back and look at the struggles women went through and to have a character of Mattie who is fearless, most of the time, is really enlightening and stirring. Mattie and Florrie have many times when their friendship is tested, there are fallings out, but it showed beautifully the bond they do share that when times are tough they are there for one another. I loved spending time with these characters over the years in this book and highly recommend everyone to pick this book up and hopefully feel as proud and uplifted as I did after reading this!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the locations in the novel This was such a joy to read and extremely apt and poignant in the year we’re all supporting and remembering what these woman did for us. These were the early days of feminism and women’s rights but it’s told in such a poignant, warm witty way that it feels like you’re stepping into a sepia photo, a moment in history with some of the loveliest women I’ve met in a book. I really wanted them to pop by for a cup of tea after I’d read it, I missed them so much! Lissa Ev Visit the locations in the novel This was such a joy to read and extremely apt and poignant in the year we’re all supporting and remembering what these woman did for us. These were the early days of feminism and women’s rights but it’s told in such a poignant, warm witty way that it feels like you’re stepping into a sepia photo, a moment in history with some of the loveliest women I’ve met in a book. I really wanted them to pop by for a cup of tea after I’d read it, I missed them so much! Lissa Evans has really achieved something special with this book. It’s packed full of information woven into a charming tale so you never feel you’re ‘learning’ but you do feel so much wiser and enlighted by the end. Curious even and that’s no bad thing with a subject matter as important as this one. I’d love to see this on the TV. I’d go down to the set and hug Mattie and Florrie for real!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joanne D'Arcy

    Stop and think about this title of the latest book from Lissa Evans. Old Baggage, can mean different things to different people. It can be used as a description of some older lady, past her prime and of no use to anyone or society. It can be the baggage we bring from the past into the present. It can be actual tangible items, it can be thoughts, emotions and feelings. It can simply be an old bag with treasures inside that has sat unopened for a long time. But what if it is all those things as Liss Stop and think about this title of the latest book from Lissa Evans. Old Baggage, can mean different things to different people. It can be used as a description of some older lady, past her prime and of no use to anyone or society. It can be the baggage we bring from the past into the present. It can be actual tangible items, it can be thoughts, emotions and feelings. It can simply be an old bag with treasures inside that has sat unopened for a long time. But what if it is all those things as Lissa Evans cleverly weaves her tale. Matilda Simpkin, Mattie to her friends is all the things I have described and more. She is a lady of a certain age, who having been a militant activist within the Suffragette movement has now reached a stage in life where she finds she is of no use, she has no purpose. She is simply seen by others as Old Baggage. But upon discovering a wooden club in an old bag, she wonders perhaps if there is still not more to do and can you still be idealistic and principled ten years after the main event. However, times have changed and they are moving in a different direction and when Mattie encounters someone from her past what she believes in suddenly becomes lost in some other campaign. I was drawn to all the characters, even though Mattie dominates the pages. Those she interacts with like The Flea (read the book to find out why she is called that) and young Ida who they both take under their wing. Mattie sees Ida as the future but, Ida sees a very different future and Mattie needs to change that, she did not fight for no reason. This is a enthralling read, which did make me stop and think what became of the suffragettes and this is an ideal book to celebrate the centenary of those who fought so I can have a vote.  I enjoyed all the historical aspects of it and how I was taken back to the cells of Holloway and reminded that it was another ten years before all women had the vote. This book is funny and moving and quietly powerful. The way the book is structured is perhaps  different from the norm (no defined chapters) but somehow this all adds to the story, as an old bag is found, old stories come tumbling out and they might well be able to define the future of women all over the world.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Jackie Law

    In Lissa Evan’s previous novel, Crooked Heart, the reader is briefly introduced to Mattie Simpkin, an elderly lady who was once a suffragette. Old Baggage is set a decade earlier and offers further details on the life of this idiosyncratic character. Neither book relies on the other for its story but, having enjoyed the earlier work, I was delighted by the links that exist. The tale opens in 1928. Mattie is walking across Hampstead Heath when she is assailed by a memory, her momentary distraction In Lissa Evan’s previous novel, Crooked Heart, the reader is briefly introduced to Mattie Simpkin, an elderly lady who was once a suffragette. Old Baggage is set a decade earlier and offers further details on the life of this idiosyncratic character. Neither book relies on the other for its story but, having enjoyed the earlier work, I was delighted by the links that exist. The tale opens in 1928. Mattie is walking across Hampstead Heath when she is assailed by a memory, her momentary distraction enabling a thief to make off with her handbag. In attempting to waylay the malefactor she injures a girl who then threatens legal action. Mattie’s good friend, Florrie Lee, steps in to help, offering the girl, Ida Pearse, a position in the house where she lives with Mattie. Florrie works as a Health Visitor and is the more practical and empathetic of the pair. She grew up in a poor household whereas Mattie came from a wealthy family. This disparity is more significant than Mattie can realise. The causes she cares about are linked to female equality and aspiration which can be stymied by family circumstances as much as legislation. Mattie went to university in a time when these institutions refused to confer a degree on a woman, however well she did in their exams. As a suffragette she was imprisoned and badly treated leading to a lifelong contempt for upholders of law and order. When she sees how little Ida knows about the rights Mattie has spent her life fighting for, the older woman decides this is indicative of an important matter that she can address. She places an advertisement in the local newspaper inviting girls to join a club which she will use to propagate her views. As she says to a friend: “one should try to spark a few fresh lights along the way. To be a tinderbox rather than a candle.” Mattie is not the only suffragette looking to influence the young people of London. The idea for the girls’ club was inspired by an encounter with another old friend whose outlook has moved towards Fascism. The two groups, which the ladies set up, hold their meetings on the Heath and soon become rivals leading to a confrontation. Mattie has been foolish in her dealings with the attendees at her club – favouring one for personal reasons – with cataclysmic results. The minor plot threads and contextual references add depth to what is an entertaining and accessible story. Mattie is a wonderful character, her drive, intelligence and willingness to take responsibility for her headstrong actions and their consequences an inspiration. Florrie offers a different perspective, quietly supporting and mopping up after her friend. The varied milieu offer a stark reminder of the importance of the welfare state. It takes skill to write a book that is congenial and captivating whilst offering the reader interesting topics to chew on. The attributes and actions of the characters demonstrate how multifaceted an individual can be, and how often one judges on incomplete information. Old Baggage is funny, tender, fervent and affecting. It does not shy away from important issues but neither does it preach. It is a joy to read. My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Doubleday.

  10. 3 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I had this book sat on my kindle for some time before I got around to reading it, but once I started I couldn't put it down and read it in three sittings over less than 24 hours. It centres around a militant suffragette, Mattie, and 'what came next' after the vote had been won and after it was clear that it was going to be extended equally to all men and women. Mattie is a wonderful character, larger than life in many ways, loud, slightly obnoxious, with no real empathy, but with an energy, dedi I had this book sat on my kindle for some time before I got around to reading it, but once I started I couldn't put it down and read it in three sittings over less than 24 hours. It centres around a militant suffragette, Mattie, and 'what came next' after the vote had been won and after it was clear that it was going to be extended equally to all men and women. Mattie is a wonderful character, larger than life in many ways, loud, slightly obnoxious, with no real empathy, but with an energy, dedication, humour, and a zest for life. She doesn't really see her flaws at first, but as the story progresses she becomes very aware of the mistakes she has made and their consequences. The book is well written with all the characters being well enough drawn to be distinguishable and with enough empathy from the writer to make us like many of the supporting cast, both young and old. I loved The Flea especially and would like to know more about her life, and about what happened to Ida and Inez, as well as to the boy and Mattie. The only real negative about the book is the way that in places, especially towards the end it skips forward in time and we miss things I'd like to have seen more of, however maybe that would have detracted from the main story. I received a free ecopy from NetGalley in return for an honest review, however, this is a book I'd gladly pay for and would heartily recommend.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Annette Mouat

    Oh what a cool and clever book, a jolly hockey sticks sort of book! The story begins in 1928, and the central character is Mattie Simpkin, a former suffragette. Mattie is delightful, intelligent, flawed and bored, and now that women have been granted the vote, Mattie is looking for another challenge in her life. Much of the story is set around Hampstead Heath, where Mattie lives with her dear friend, affectionately know as "The Flea". I loved the jaunty style of writing, lurching along from event Oh what a cool and clever book, a jolly hockey sticks sort of book! The story begins in 1928, and the central character is Mattie Simpkin, a former suffragette. Mattie is delightful, intelligent, flawed and bored, and now that women have been granted the vote, Mattie is looking for another challenge in her life. Much of the story is set around Hampstead Heath, where Mattie lives with her dear friend, affectionately know as "The Flea". I loved the jaunty style of writing, lurching along from event to event, often in a hilarious way. But there's also much to learn about the life and times of the Suffragettes, and the sacrifices that these women made. Highly recommend and will look out for Lissa Evans' other books.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    I fell in love with the characters in this book. Real, rounded, flawed, lovable characters that I'm still thinking about two days later. Also, I loved the sense of time and place. It's immaculate. The other thing I really like is the way that Lissa Evans doesn't spell everything out for us. She moves forward in time and we intuit what's happened in the gap. She throws in an aside and we make the connection without her repeating it or having a character clumsily spelling it out for us. I love it w I fell in love with the characters in this book. Real, rounded, flawed, lovable characters that I'm still thinking about two days later. Also, I loved the sense of time and place. It's immaculate. The other thing I really like is the way that Lissa Evans doesn't spell everything out for us. She moves forward in time and we intuit what's happened in the gap. She throws in an aside and we make the connection without her repeating it or having a character clumsily spelling it out for us. I love it when writers do this and it doesn't happen that often. Trust that the reader has a brain and is paying attention. We do and we are.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Readers who've read and enjoyed Lissa Evans' Crooked Heart, published in November 2014 will be delighted, as I was, to find that Old Baggage is Matilda 'Mattie' Simpkin's early story. We meet Mattie as she fights off an attacker on Hampstead Heath and inadvertently injures a young woman whilst doing so. That woman is Ida Pearse who is angry and threatens to take legal action against Mattie. Mattie's friend and greatest ally; Florrie 'The Flea' comes to the rescue and offers Ivy work as the housek Readers who've read and enjoyed Lissa Evans' Crooked Heart, published in November 2014 will be delighted, as I was, to find that Old Baggage is Matilda 'Mattie' Simpkin's early story. We meet Mattie as she fights off an attacker on Hampstead Heath and inadvertently injures a young woman whilst doing so. That woman is Ida Pearse who is angry and threatens to take legal action against Mattie. Mattie's friend and greatest ally; Florrie 'The Flea' comes to the rescue and offers Ivy work as the housekeeper in the home that Mattie and Florrie share. Mattie is feeling her age, and the 'old baggage' of the title could easily be how she sees herself, just as it could also be the amazing life she led as a younger woman. Mattie fought tirelessly for women's rights, she spent time in jail, she went to university when women were not awarded degrees. She's had an incredible life and is determined to carry on her work. When Mattie meets an old acquaintance who seems to be favouring the new wave of fascism and has set up a club to encourage this, she decides it's time to set up a new group; to encourage younger women in her views. She's been especially dismayed by Ida's lack of knowledge regarding the rights of women. Holding both of the group meetings in the same venue can only lead to disaster and it's not long before confrontation happens. Lissa Evans is such a talented author. Her characters are delightful, and I was especially fond of Florrie who is such a support to Mattie, with the same views but a very different way of dealing with them. Her work as a Health Visitor shows the hands-on, caring nature that she has and I found her to be less abrasive and hot headed than Mattie. Old Baggage is the perfect novel for 2018; one hundred years on from the suffragette movement and gives an incredible insight into what those brave and committed women went through so that our generation can live more equally today. Lissa Evans writes with charm and with humour. Her observations are vivid and colourful and her characters are a delight. This is a courageous and touching story, I enjoyed it very much.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Cayley

    I really enjoyed this novel. Set largely in 1928, it has as its central characters two former suffragettes, Mattie Simpkin and Florence Lea, long known as the Flea, who live together near Hampstead Heath. Florence is the practical one, who keeps the household going, and is full of unrequited love for her companion. Mattie has not really found an aim in life since the vote started to be extended to women. It is Mattie who brings the book alive: erudite, with a hilariously sharp sense of humour, s I really enjoyed this novel. Set largely in 1928, it has as its central characters two former suffragettes, Mattie Simpkin and Florence Lea, long known as the Flea, who live together near Hampstead Heath. Florence is the practical one, who keeps the household going, and is full of unrequited love for her companion. Mattie has not really found an aim in life since the vote started to be extended to women. It is Mattie who brings the book alive: erudite, with a hilariously sharp sense of humour, seemingly indomitable. When one of their former suffragette colleagues, who is now a Fascist, comes along, Mattie decides to take on the challenge of starting what is, in effect, a weekly feminist group for girls, where she seeks to improve their education, and show them they can do anything boys can. It does not all run smoothly, and Mattie muddles her way to some disastrous mayhem which chastens her. This is an unusual novel which frequently had me in giggles. Really recommended. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me have an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Ronnie Turner

    Suffragette Mattie Simpkins has dedicated her life to fighting for womens’ right to vote. She has tackled politicians, stood at the forefront of protests and inspired and buoyed the hopes and aspirations of so many under her wing. Now her life, which was once pulsing with speeches (her own), fisticuffs (not her own) and the multiple times she spent in prison, is empty. She is at a loss for what do to. Mattie is shocked by young womens’ lacklustre reactions to subjects such as politics, history, g Suffragette Mattie Simpkins has dedicated her life to fighting for womens’ right to vote. She has tackled politicians, stood at the forefront of protests and inspired and buoyed the hopes and aspirations of so many under her wing. Now her life, which was once pulsing with speeches (her own), fisticuffs (not her own) and the multiple times she spent in prison, is empty. She is at a loss for what do to. Mattie is shocked by young womens’ lacklustre reactions to subjects such as politics, history, geography, and more. Taking it upon herself to help, Mattie forms a club. Meeting every weekend on Hampstead Heath, girls from the age of twelve to eighteen are invited to join and broaden their horizons on subjects that could propel them into brilliant vocations. But soon, her past will catch up with her. And someone could bring down everything she is striving for. Mattie is determined to offer the girls knowledge and opportunities that so many others must forgo. The passion and courage she imbues in them reaps many rewards. In no time at all, the handful of members (Amazons, as they are called) has expanded and every weekend, girls come together under Mattie’s watchful eye. But in the course of her new venture, she discovers a secret in her family. Health visitor Florrie – The Flea, as she is known – is Mattie’s housemate and is perhaps more reserved than Mattie on the surface but is equally as lovable. You can’t help but cheer on these characters … And also accidentally, excitedly spill your tea when they come up triumphant. Mattie is a force of nature. I loved her for her unassailable courage, commitment, determination and passion. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans is a rich, tender tale of friendship, love and fighting for what you believe in. Its capacity to move its readers is astounding. I loved it! Tender. Moving. Beautiful.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Crooked Heart was a book that I enjoyed very much so I was thrilled to see that Old Baggage had been published. You could say that it is a prequel, focusing on Mattie who was Noel's godmother. She was only in the first chapter of Crooked Heart but it was evident that she was a character who had much to say.Most of this novel takes place in 1928. Mattie lives with the brilliantly named 'The Flea'. She isn't hesitant at making her feelings known,not always with tact, and it's something that gets h Crooked Heart was a book that I enjoyed very much so I was thrilled to see that Old Baggage had been published. You could say that it is a prequel, focusing on Mattie who was Noel's godmother. She was only in the first chapter of Crooked Heart but it was evident that she was a character who had much to say.
Most of this novel takes place in 1928. Mattie lives with the brilliantly named 'The Flea'. She isn't hesitant at making her feelings known,not always with tact, and it's something that gets her into trouble more than once. I did have some sympathy for The Flea, and in a lot of ways she was the character I preferred. I liked her reading about helping those who were worse off and her quiet devotion to Mattie.
I spent much of the novel trying to work out the connection with Noel and thankfully it was revealed who his mother was. She was the person I expected it to be, and at first I thought her reasoning for her actions a little cold but on reflection I don't think they were. Just honest. I enjoyed reading Mattie's memories of her life as a suffragette, it would be brilliant to read another 'prequel' and learn more.
Funny, poignant, honest, and revealing. Not just personally but also with attitudes at the time. Old Baggage is one that will be just as successful as Crooked Heart.


  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Oh my. I don't often give out 5 stars but this book warrants it - if I could give it 6 I would! How Lissa Evans manages to make you care for these wonderful characters within a few pages is amazing. It was a pleasure to get to know Mattie Simpkins after the brief glimpse we got of her in Crooked Heart. She is a wonderful character who I had anticipated to be the centre of this book, so was surprised and delighted to encounter Florrie Lee, or 'the flea', who is equally involving and who tugs at o Oh my. I don't often give out 5 stars but this book warrants it - if I could give it 6 I would! How Lissa Evans manages to make you care for these wonderful characters within a few pages is amazing. It was a pleasure to get to know Mattie Simpkins after the brief glimpse we got of her in Crooked Heart. She is a wonderful character who I had anticipated to be the centre of this book, so was surprised and delighted to encounter Florrie Lee, or 'the flea', who is equally involving and who tugs at our heartstrings. These women just jump off the page and become people you feel you know. I can't laud this book enough - like Crooked Heart it is funny and destroyingly sad at turns and whose characters will become part of your conscience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Helen Eddon

    This is another wonderful novel from Lissa Evans and introduces us to a younger Mattie Simpkin who we first encountered in Crooked Heart. It's 1928 and Mattie doesn't know what to do with her life. She'd been active in the Suffragette Movement, protesting, marching, being imprisoned and enduring hunger strikes but is there another cause she can devote herself to? She settled on starting a girls' club that she names the Amazons, meeting on Sundays on Hampstead Heath and providing a forum for disc This is another wonderful novel from Lissa Evans and introduces us to a younger Mattie Simpkin who we first encountered in Crooked Heart. It's 1928 and Mattie doesn't know what to do with her life. She'd been active in the Suffragette Movement, protesting, marching, being imprisoned and enduring hunger strikes but is there another cause she can devote herself to? She settled on starting a girls' club that she names the Amazons, meeting on Sundays on Hampstead Heath and providing a forum for discussion and outdoor activities. It leads them to confrontation and rivalry with a local fascist group and this, ultimately, ends in disaster for personal reasons. Mattie is a wonderful character - headstrong, determined and enthusiastic but her companion, Florrie Lea, the Flea, is equally wonderful - sensible, quiet and supportive. Hugely enjoyable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Grace J Reviewerlady

    Miss Matilda Simpkins, unmarried woman of a certain age is an educated former suffragette who prides herself on her ability to point out to others where they are going wrong with their lives. It's hard to try and recreate the busy glory days when, along with many others, they had a common goal and a fight on their hands. What Mattie needs is to occupy her time with a cause ... Set in the 1920's, this is such an engaging and stimulating read. I thought the protagonist reminded me of someone, but I Miss Matilda Simpkins, unmarried woman of a certain age is an educated former suffragette who prides herself on her ability to point out to others where they are going wrong with their lives. It's hard to try and recreate the busy glory days when, along with many others, they had a common goal and a fight on their hands. What Mattie needs is to occupy her time with a cause ... Set in the 1920's, this is such an engaging and stimulating read. I thought the protagonist reminded me of someone, but I just couldn't put my finger on it, until she fastened her cloak. Margaret Rutherford played Jane Marple in the black and white Agatha Christie films (before my time, but I've seen them watching tv on a wet Sunday afternoon) with the same gung-ho attitude that Mattie displays. Being an exponent of fresh air and exercise, it's not long before she comes up with something to offer the community. Will it be the making of her or her downfall? This is such a good read; with so many books set at the time of women's suffrage in this, the centenary year, it's a delight to read one which shows life after their aims were achieved. Choc-a-bloc with information - some of which I was previously unaware of - this is a story told with good humour and honesty. Adroitly written with a wonderful array of characters, I find myself unsurprised to discover that this author has been nominated for quite a list of literary prizes. Lissa Evans is a new author to me, but I hope to read more of her work in the future. Such a terrific novel deserves no less that the maximum number of stars and a hearty endorsement. My thanks to publishers Random House UK for approving my request via NetGalley. This is my honest, original and unbiased review.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Jemima Pett

    Lissa Evans' protagonist, the redoubtable Matilda Simpkins, sees women who don't know enough about anything to realise that they have the vote, let alone use it.  Her memories of the activities her group undertook, and the earnest young women and the camaraderie they shared, seems hollow in the face of 'modern' indifference.  So she attempts to engage young women, of all backgrounds, to enlighten them about the possibilities, about fair play, and on that basis help them decide what contribution Lissa Evans' protagonist, the redoubtable Matilda Simpkins, sees women who don't know enough about anything to realise that they have the vote, let alone use it.  Her memories of the activities her group undertook, and the earnest young women and the camaraderie they shared, seems hollow in the face of 'modern' indifference.  So she attempts to engage young women, of all backgrounds, to enlighten them about the possibilities, about fair play, and on that basis help them decide what contribution they could make to their world. It's a very engaging story, and one where you occasionally cringe over Mattie's naivety, then marvel at her ingenuity and integrity. I liked her a lot, even with her exasperating habits. It could be a story about anyone who has given herself up for a cause in her youth, only to look back and wonder whether she really made a difference. There are occasional passages where I felt the story lost its way a little, but it soon recovered. I now find myself musing on it, even after reading three more books, and that means it should definitely get that fifth star. Summary: Excellent novel about a former suffragette still fighting for the cause. I learned so much more about the reality of the suffragette's lives from this than all the 'factual' books and films. Wonderful book, although a little slow-moving at times. Thank you to Net-Galley and the publisher for providing a free copy of this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Harris

    I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of Old Baggage. "It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade..." This book is a prequel, of sorts, to Crooked Heart, in which we follow the story of young Noel in the early days of the Second World War after the death of his eccentric (though rather wonderful sounding) godmother, Mattie. Old Baggage tells us more about the fascinating Mattie. She I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of Old Baggage. "It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade..." This book is a prequel, of sorts, to Crooked Heart, in which we follow the story of young Noel in the early days of the Second World War after the death of his eccentric (though rather wonderful sounding) godmother, Mattie. Old Baggage tells us more about the fascinating Mattie. She has led a turbulent life, including activism as a Suffragette, but when this story opens, in 1928, she's living a quieter life near Hampstead Heath with her companion Florae ("The Flea"). There are glimpses of past glories: Mattie's house was a refuge for women playing the deadline game of "cat and mouse" with the authorities at the height of the campaign for the vote. There are also regrets: that women' suffrage is still not universal (Florrie has never been able to vote, because she fails the property qualification), that the militant campaign was halted in favour of the War Effort. Lissa Evans evokes very well the sense of chaffing, of stasis, that affects one who has taken part in significant events but is now sidelined. (This calls forward to a theme explored in Crooked Heart where we meet another stalwart suffragette in reduced circumstances during the Blitz). Faced with this, and after meeting an old comrade whose activism has taken a sinister turn into fascism, Mattie sets out to educate the girls of the district by founding a wonderful, anarchic outdoor youth group. Telling the stories of the suffragettes and of great women from history, teaching use of the javelin and the slingshot, and encouraging the young women to further their education, gives Mattie the focus she needs. And if it results in a little healthy competition with the rival, and hated, Empire League (which believes in smartly polished boots and the expulsion of foreigners) then what can go wrong? This is a sharply observed, often comic, but also deeply sad story. We see - in flashbacks - something of Mattie's early life and come to learn about her strengths and but also her weaknesses. (Ida, one of the young women swept up in her wake, points out that however much Mattie's heart is in the right place, she does;t understand the difference having money has made to her). In the end her greatest weakness is all bound up with family and with her lost, adored brother Angus, of whom she can believe no wrong - a belief that warps her judgment in the end and risks the purposeful life she's built. Old Baggage - the name cleverly combining an insult that might be used of a woman like Mattie and the idea of clutter from the past dragging one down, both themes of this book - is a fairly short book, just over 300 pages, yet it ranges widely. Evans gives us vignettes, showing Ida bogged down by her passive-aggressive mother who doesn't want her bright daughter to progress any further than she did, or at her 'continuation school', or Florrie at her work as a health visitor, trying to ameliorate the desperate tide of poverty and ignorance of the inter-war years. There are also Mattie's reminiscences, especially when she encounters a childhood friend, and glimpses of at least one other character from Crooked Heart (which I think I need to go back and reread now that I know more about Mattie). It's a very effective technique, allowing the book to cover much more ground than you would expect. Coming a century after that achievement of the first votes for women - but at a time when the struggle for equality and decent treatment is clearly still raging - it's a also a salutary read, highlighting many issues that are still current, such as the man who seems a staunch ally, even being arrested and sent to prison, but whose motivation is at least in part to get close to all those women, or the women who hold other women back, or the consequences of an untimely, unwanted pregnancy. Or a shout from a man in the street: "'Give us a smile, girlie,' said the bus conductor. She could have bitten him." Yes, there have been improvements. Mattie reflects how "Long ago, as a child in a pinched and stifled century, she had seen her own mother gradually disappear." But despite these, Mattie and a friend can't, as "unaccompanied" women, be served in a bar. Florrie still cares for wives whose husbands won't have any truck with contraception. And one of her colleagues accepts that if she marries, she'll have to give up work. many obstacles remain and perhaps Mattie's frustration at the start of this novel is her sense of that - and of having ceased to push forward, instead recalling old glories and giving her magic-lantern lectures about the struggle. All that old baggage. It is simply a great read, peopled by larger than life characters who almost jump of the page to hold your attention. Deeply engaging. I hope that Evans might return, again, to these characters, telling us more about Mattie's earlier life, or Ida or Inez's future, or perhaps more about Noel (who also features here though to say how would be a spoiler). I'd strongly recommend this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Picken

    Set in 1928 when women’s suffrage is on the cusp of being extended to women over 21, irrespective of whether or not they are property owners. It is a massive change for which women have fought over many years. Emmeline Pankhurst sadly does not live to see the day, but Mattie Simpkin and her sister suffragettes, are looking forward to celebrating. Not that Mattie is one to rest on her laurels, certainly not! Mattie’s raison d’être is all about encouraging young women to embrace the new found futur Set in 1928 when women’s suffrage is on the cusp of being extended to women over 21, irrespective of whether or not they are property owners. It is a massive change for which women have fought over many years. Emmeline Pankhurst sadly does not live to see the day, but Mattie Simpkin and her sister suffragettes, are looking forward to celebrating. Not that Mattie is one to rest on her laurels, certainly not! Mattie’s raison d’être is all about encouraging young women to embrace the new found future that the suffragettes have fought for; to help young women understand that there can be more to their lives than inheriting that which their mothers had. Florence Lea (known as ‘the Flea’) and Mattie share a house in Hampstead known as the Mousehole, because it was used as a convalescent home for hunger-striking suffragettes during the Cat and Mouse Act. Florrie is a sanitary inspector, and helps Mattie at her slide lectures about the exploits of the Women’s Suffragette movement. Mattie lived for those exploits and is looking for something to carry on her enthusiasms. Two unconnected events lead her to her next project. Reacting to a mugging on Hampstead Heath, Mattie throws a cudgel at the perpetrator, but unwittingly hits a young girl named Ida. Then, a chance encounter with a sister suffragette, now married to an Australian, leads her to understand that the fascist movement is actively recruiting young people in London. Mattie decides there and then to set up a group for young women, called The Amazons, with Ida as her first recruit. She teaches everything from debating to wood chopping, encouraging these young women to think for themselves and be self-sufficient. Inevitably, the Amazons come face to face with the Empire Youth League, the young fascist group whose members are exhorted to use their ‘strength and commitment to drive back the sickly tide of foreign interference’. Mattie, whose head and heart have become inextricably mixed up, makes a very bad error of judgement; one which will lead to the destruction of everything she holds dear. Full of rather wonderful phrases, Lissa Evans conjures up a sense of what it must have been like to be an activist in the suffragette movement and how those women whose sweethearts and husbands didn’t return from World War 1 made a path for themselves with their newly found enlightenment. The characterisation is excellent; from Mattie and Florrie to Ida and Inez, we learn about living conditions, expectations, and emotions. Old Baggage is a warm, tender and sometimes downright funny book. It is a wonderful evocation of friendship, passion and commitment and I really enjoyed it. Verdict: A terrific, engaging and moving read.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Katy Noyes

    Wonderful exploration of 'what suffragettes did next' combined with a comedic and touching glimpse at developing feminism and women's rights. I've read several of Evans novels for children and adults, and love her breezy, flowing style. All are very easy to fall into, with excellent comic touches and well-defined characters. Here, in a similar vein to 'Their Finest Hour and a Half' we have a bittersweet and funny look at a particular point in modern history, from the female perspective. The 'Old B Wonderful exploration of 'what suffragettes did next' combined with a comedic and touching glimpse at developing feminism and women's rights. I've read several of Evans novels for children and adults, and love her breezy, flowing style. All are very easy to fall into, with excellent comic touches and well-defined characters. Here, in a similar vein to 'Their Finest Hour and a Half' we have a bittersweet and funny look at a particular point in modern history, from the female perspective. The 'Old Baggage' of the title could refer to the former Suffragette, now an older ladie providing educational talks about her experiences for interested audiences, Mattie. Living with The Flea (Florrie Lea), the two intellectuals reminisce, while The Flea keeps Mattie on track, and Mattie searches for something to get her teeth into, with her glory days far behind her. A chance meeting with a young, bright girl with few prospects gives her the idea of starting a club for girls to improve their minds, bodies and outlooks. A most enjoyable concept, and executed with great detail - from the names, clothes and speech, descriptions of everyday lives, it really felt like the inter-war years. There is a whole array of characters to root for, from the gentle Flea to some rowdy girls in the club, to the 'bull in a china shop' Mattie herself. I have read Crooked Heart, in which Mattie appears briefly, but she didn't make much of an impression on me, it's only through reading reviews that I recalled I'd read her name before. I won't be forgetting her again after this! A superb creation, I loved her ability to educate her girls about any subject that happened to come up. We even have a bit of an anti-hero, a rivalry, and moral dilemmas for Mattie to contend with, with echoes of future Fascist ideologies. My favourite scenes were those with the girls club, some very 'Bunty' activities, but it all seemed so much fun I wished I was joining them. The last chapter I felt tried a little too hard to wrap things up neatly, but also left a sad scent of longing. I wonder if we'll hear more from Mattie in the future... As with 'Their Finest Hour...', this could make a wonderful 'Great British' film, the elements - script, characters and highly relevant setting (with anniversaries currently being commemorated) are all high quality. If you enjoy social history, stories of feminism or gentle comedy/drama, this will be your cup of English tea. With thanks to Netgalley for the advance e-copy.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Theediscerning

    The late 1920s, and Mattie is still fairly well-known as having been one of the suffragettes. There's still a chance of the law being changed soon, too, so that universal suffrage is finally possible. But while she's long known the male world isn't ready for that, neither, she soon discovers, is the female side of things, so she sets up an improving group of support and wilderness training on Hampstead Heath. Lo and behold an old colleague has set up her own, too, but this is much more like Muss The late 1920s, and Mattie is still fairly well-known as having been one of the suffragettes. There's still a chance of the law being changed soon, too, so that universal suffrage is finally possible. But while she's long known the male world isn't ready for that, neither, she soon discovers, is the female side of things, so she sets up an improving group of support and wilderness training on Hampstead Heath. Lo and behold an old colleague has set up her own, too, but this is much more like Mussolini's fascists. The two rival groups are the kind of thing to possibly cause conflict within families, as children choose different sides, but Mattie is to find the whole idea brings up secrets related to her own family… This is clearly a charged novel with modern topics. As the loonie left struggle to convince people giving the vote to politically naive fifteen-year-olds would ever be a good idea, so the world would have to hope for a host of Matties to come along and make the teens more astute – or perhaps "woke", it pains me to say. The two sides here aren't exact counterparts of the modern left and right, although of course the team we concentrate on has a hippyish, raggle-taggle lack of uniform(ity), while the other lot will clearly either be made money or yuppies in a few generations, even if their costume is the one that's subsidised. But that modern subject doesn't completely imbue the style, which can be rather high-falutin' at times. The rarefied way of speaking Mattie and the woman who lives with her share, and which people are quick to pick up on, almost leaches across to the narrator, and you get a staid period piece as a result. So no, that woman is never a lesbian, even if people and readers can tell a mile away. That doesn't mean, however, that the approach of the book is against it – the author is strong enough to have characters find each other hilarious and for us to also find them funny, a rare situation. I did find it a touch too long, but then again it wasn't really the book I thought it would be. In being sold as a book about the post-suffrage world, it's actually about family, and when it might be right or wrong to just let young adults be. Ultimately it's as politically charged as that summary of the Levellers movement – that they only wanted everyone to be levelled UP, and in intelligence at least that's what Mattie stands for. And surely few can disagree with that. Three and a half stars, in the finish.

  25. 3 out of 5

    Alison

    I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Old Baggage from the publisher, it covers one of my ‘favourite’ moments in history, the suffragette movement. I used the term favourite very loosely because the amount of physical and emotional harm these ladies put themselves through for the benefit of us younger generations is astounding. And politically driven or not we should all use our right to vote in honour of those unselfish enough to gain it for us. Old Baggage is the first book I have read by Lis I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Old Baggage from the publisher, it covers one of my ‘favourite’ moments in history, the suffragette movement. I used the term favourite very loosely because the amount of physical and emotional harm these ladies put themselves through for the benefit of us younger generations is astounding. And politically driven or not we should all use our right to vote in honour of those unselfish enough to gain it for us. Old Baggage is the first book I have read by Lissa and I believe Mattie and a young Noel have appeared in another book so I should track that down to put this one into better focus. Mattie is one of those characters that puts reality onto the page, she is such a fascinating person and I would love to sit down and discuss her life so far over a cup of coffee with her. At present she is living with Florrie Lee aka The Flea, clever eh? Florrie is a health visitor and Mattie is feeling rater dejected and out of place after her activity in the militant suffrage movement. After discovering a fellow colleague has set up a fascist group she endeavours to form her own group for young girls to show what a contribution they can bring to the world, how education to all standards should be available despite class, her feminist army is named the Amazon’s and they meet weekly on Hampstead Heath where Mattie lives. Old Baggage can mean so many things and there are numerous options to choose from in this book, can Mattie and the Flea make a difference in the world again if they have already succeeded before. This is a story which will seep into your consciousness, the characters are all larger than life yet they are written to be totally relatable. I was drawn to the Flea who always meant well I think, but not everyone got away without making mistakes. It’s a book you need to make time for to really savour it’s depth. The writing goes from anger to sadness and back again, all perfectly delivered in an excellent prose. I will be thinking about Old Baggage for some time to come, maybe it just appeals to my generation or perhaps each generation gleans something different from it. My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne Cater for my copy which I read and reviewed voluntarily. All opinions are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    In 2015, British author Lissa Evans published a delightful book called "Crooked Heart". Set in the early days of WW2, the main character was a nine year old boy, Noel Bostock - old and wise before his time - who ends up in the care of a scrounger when he's evacuated from London to a town in the countryside. "Crooked Heart" is as wise and whimsical as Noel is, himself. Now, Noel reappears in a cameo role in Evans's latest novel, "Old Baggage". "Old Baggage" is set in the Hampstead Heath area of no In 2015, British author Lissa Evans published a delightful book called "Crooked Heart". Set in the early days of WW2, the main character was a nine year old boy, Noel Bostock - old and wise before his time - who ends up in the care of a scrounger when he's evacuated from London to a town in the countryside. "Crooked Heart" is as wise and whimsical as Noel is, himself. Now, Noel reappears in a cameo role in Evans's latest novel, "Old Baggage". "Old Baggage" is set in the Hampstead Heath area of north London in the 1920's. Two women - former suffragettes Mattie Simpkin and Florrie Lee ("The Flea") live together near the Heath. The time was the aftermath of the major push for womens' suffrage in the 1900's. Mattie and The Flea had been longtime battlers for womens' rights and were now adjusting their goals of helping to better women's and children's places in postwar society. For a while I couldn't figure out Mattie and where the book was going. Was Mattie a "Prime of Miss Jean Brody"-type character, hoping to influence young women towards the fascist ideal of Benito Mussolini? No, that was the role of an old suffragette friend of Mattie who has returned to England with an Australian husband in tow and a whole raft of fascisti notions. Mattie just wants to teach teens and young women what she learned while working as a suffragette - independence and a belief in doing good in the world around them. Mattie's group - called The Amazons - does attract members. Some are more active than others; some don't exactly hoe the party line. Ida and Inez, two teens, are especially highlighted in the book, and one's actions are responsible for Noel Bostock. I wavered for a while between giving "Old Baggage" four or five stars. It's definitely a novel worth reading and I can heartily recommend it, particularly for those who enjoyed "Crooked Heart" as much as I did. But I also thought "Old Baggage" kind of wandered, constantly changing direction. Until I reached the end, I wasn't sure really just "who" Mattie and most of the characters "were". But, again, I certainly enjoyed the book and the interesting look at post-WW1 England it gave. Now I may go reread "Crooked Heart".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Sheppard

    Lissa Evans' novel Crooked Heart is a great favourite of mine, so I was very excited to learn that her new book, Old Baggage, is a prequel to it and centres on the character of Mattie Simpkin, a former suffragette who, in 1928, now finds herself middle-aged and, frankly, rather bored. Mrs Pankhurst's funeral is about to take place and women are finally about to be given the same voting rights as men, but Mattie's left with a strong sense that the struggle isn't over - and she's utterly appalled t Lissa Evans' novel Crooked Heart is a great favourite of mine, so I was very excited to learn that her new book, Old Baggage, is a prequel to it and centres on the character of Mattie Simpkin, a former suffragette who, in 1928, now finds herself middle-aged and, frankly, rather bored. Mrs Pankhurst's funeral is about to take place and women are finally about to be given the same voting rights as men, but Mattie's left with a strong sense that the struggle isn't over - and she's utterly appalled to learn that a former comrade of hers has recently returned to London to start recruiting teenagers to a newly-established fascist youth league. Mattie takes it upon herself to set up the Amazons, an organisation for teenage girls of every social background that sees them learning self-defence, survival skills and debating on Hampstead Heath, and it's something of a success - until she meets someone with a link to her past, and her newfound sense of purpose becomes dangerously skewed. Mattie herself is every bit as formidable as you'd expect, and yet she's not without her weaknesses. She's single-minded, egotistical and often shamefully unable to see what's under her nose - as her long-suffering friend and lodger The Flea would certainly tell us if Mattie would let her get a word in edgewise. And yet it's impossible not to love her: she's utterly well-meaning even when she's terribly wrong, and there were times when I wanted to drop the book for a moment to applaud her. I also loved Ida, a teenager Mattie and The Flea employ as a maid after Mattie inadvertently injures her by hurling a whisky miniature into a crowd, and The Flea herself, a dedicated and determined health visitor whose own story has an underlying sadness to it that brought me to tears. Every single character in Old Baggage is beautifully drawn; the dialogue is sparkling; the period detail is pitch-perfect. It's often very funny - I laughed out loud more than once - and despite its historical setting, feels timely and relevant. Like Crooked Heart, it has a bittersweet quality to it that means it's deeply touching while remaining solidly unsentimental. I can't fault this book, which has immediately become my favourite read of 2018.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Scott-Emmett

    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 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 honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I really enjoyed this novel which is rich in characters, humour and history. I also learned new stuff which is always a bonus. Mattie Simpkin was part of the suffragette movement and when we first meet her it is 1928 and she is looking for another outlet for her energy. Along with her friend The Flea she establishes The Amazons a club for girls where they learn field crafts, debating and how to challenge society. Mattie is a very entertaining character, she is witty, clever and rather unaware of t I really enjoyed this novel which is rich in characters, humour and history. I also learned new stuff which is always a bonus. Mattie Simpkin was part of the suffragette movement and when we first meet her it is 1928 and she is looking for another outlet for her energy. Along with her friend The Flea she establishes The Amazons a club for girls where they learn field crafts, debating and how to challenge society. Mattie is a very entertaining character, she is witty, clever and rather unaware of the consequences of some of her actions. She is ably supported by The Flea who tries her best to keep Mattie out of trouble. Other ‘retired’ suffragettes add to the excellent flavour of the story along with the girls who comprise The Amazons. There are some truly laugh out loud moments in this loveable tale, especially those which involve Ada, a young girl who works for Mattie and her attempts to corral the twins, Avril and Winnie. Over and above the humour there is an important message about the role of class and its implications for women in society. We also see the beginning of the rise of fascism in post-war Britain through the suffragette ‘gone bad’ Jacko, her husband and the Empire Youth League. I would highly recommend this novel for its heart-warming characters, sense of sisterhood and an important message. I received a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley and publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

  30. 3 out of 5

    Jean Aarons

    I very much enjoyed this book which is set in 1928 as women over the age of 21 are about to be granted the right to vote with the passing of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act. It tells the story of Mattie Simpkins and her friend, Florrie Lee (nicknamed the Flea) who are former suffragettes. The writer describes how they come to terms with the past and the loss of old friends and family as a new era is ushered in following the achievement of their main objective of votes for a I very much enjoyed this book which is set in 1928 as women over the age of 21 are about to be granted the right to vote with the passing of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act. It tells the story of Mattie Simpkins and her friend, Florrie Lee (nicknamed the Flea) who are former suffragettes. The writer describes how they come to terms with the past and the loss of old friends and family as a new era is ushered in following the achievement of their main objective of votes for all women. The characterisation of both women is excellent and one really feels their adjustments to life now. Although they have achieved the right to vote, women still have very difficult lives and both Mattie,through the setting up of her young women’s outdoor group and Florrie with her health visitor work try to educate women on how to lead more fulfilling lives. I felt that they both reflected very well on how achieving the vote was just the beginning. Lots of the young women they encounter had so many other pressing concerns in life so the importance being able vote now was not fully appreciated. Also the writer demonstrates how far women had to go to even remotely achieve some sort of equality and a better life. The ending is very interesting as the action moves forwards to 1933 and sets events up to dovetail nicely into the author’s previous book “Crooked Heart” set at the beginning of World War Two.

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