About the Book
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.
I was delighted to receive a copy of Old Baggage from the publisher as it’s a book I’ve been so keen to read. I was sure it would be a novel that I’d love (and I did love it so much) but I didn’t expect it to speak to me in quite the way it did.
Old Baggage predominantly follows Mattie Simpkins who was prominent in the suffragette movement but now it’s 1928 and time has moved on. However, she still strongly feels that the fight for equality for women is far from over. She lives with her old friend Florrie (known as The Flea) and the two women are a wonderful balance to each other.
I adored this novel! I’m fascinated by the suffragettes so this was always going to be my kind of book but I found that it was the things below the surface in Mattie that really got to me. There are a few moments in the novel where this strong, forthright woman really has to rally herself to show strength. She’s a real believer in putting her best foot forward and not allowing herself to dwell on things. However, someone comes into her life that has ties to her past and she begins to flounder. I found myself caught up in Mattie’s emotions and thoughts as she tried to assimilate her new world.
Mattie sets up a group for girls where they can learn all sorts of skills in a fun way that will help them learn to be strong, intelligent and free-thinking women. She firmly believes in motivating the next generation of young woman to keep fighting for equality and her life really revolves around this. The first member of her new group is her teenage housemaid Ida, who is a great character. I really enjoyed reading more about her as the novel progressed. Eventually more girls join up but there is trouble brewing as a much more organised and regimented group begins to form; a group that is deeply unsettling for what it represents.
The title of this novel is so apt: Mattie is referred to as an ‘old baggage’ in the novel as she is no longer a young woman. She also carries a lot of old baggage from her suffragette days, and now from the things she’s learning about her brother. There is also the general old baggage of how society was and how it was changing to finally give all women the vote, and the beginnings of a more equal footing.
All in all this is a wonderful novel. I loved every minute that I spent reading it and think it’ll be a book that I re-read in the future. The characters are all so brilliantly written and felt like real people to me, I miss them now I’ve finished reading. This is one of those really special books that I never wanted to end because I was enjoying it so very much. If you haven’t already read this novel I highly recommend you pick up a copy soon, it really is a fabulous read!
I received a copy of Old Baggage from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.
Old Baggage is out now and available here.
About the Author
Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands. She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well read if not wildly popular.
After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to change to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; a job in BBC Radio light entertainment followed, and then a switch to television, where she produced and directed series including ‘Room 101’ and also ‘Father Ted’, for which she won a BAFTA.
Her first book, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written four more novels for adults (one of which, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, was filmed in 2017) and three novels for children. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She still reads voraciously.