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OLD BAGGAGE BY LISSA EVANS

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Judith Veasey

This is a book that I would normally pass by on the book shop shelf. Not my usual choice, but I really enjoyed reading it. The characters in the story, Mattie, 'The Flea' Ida and Inez come to life in the imagination of the reader. It gave me a fascination for life in the 1920's and 30's. It gives food for thought about the lives and expectations of women and girls during this time. Mattie is a strong personality, who is not prepared to sit back and let men take the leading role in life, she is determined to make a difference. Her early life as a militant suffragette have left her needing to get fulfilment and help future women gain independence. The story shows her vulnerability, when she comes across a 'secret' from the past.

Judith Francis

I really enjoyed this book, its setting, London in 1928, seems unusual and the fact that it is about characters who were previously suffragettes is equally intriguing.
Mattie Simpkin, a former suffragette, imprisoned five times for her activities, is the main protagonist. She seems at first to be a stereotypical unmarried middle aged woman of that era, well educated and of independent means. However she does not at all fit this pattern. She has ideas and aspirations for women that are well in advance of the time. She is very much a believer that women should have equal life chances with men.
She starts an outdoor healthy activity group for disadvantaged young girls, that includes throwing javelins, sling shots and archery, and generally roaming on Hampstead Heath to engage in other exciting pursuits. The group proves very popular and all the time the girls have their horizons extended and their knowledge broadened in an entertaining way. Mattie never misses an opportunity to tell the girls about famous women in history who have achieved much but who are rarely known. One of the members of the group, Ida, who cleans for Mattie and her friend the Flea (Florrie Lee), leads a very deprived existence but begins to blossom at the club where she is able to use her intelligence, resourcefulness and leadership skills that she would not have been able to display in her normal life.
The plot unravels with more political references particularly involving a rival group that is run by decidedly right wing adults who admire Mussolini. There are other story lines about other characters that have links with Mattie’s past that make this an interesting tale. I really did want to know ‘What happens next!’ The ‘Old Baggage’ of the title could also refer to the emotional ‘Baggage’ that is revealed as the plot unravels. Highly recommended!

Caron Gaw

It is such a joy to discover, after reading only a few pages that, you are going to enjoy the book just started.
A very conversational style of writing took me through 5 years in the life, experiences and hopes of two ageing suffragettes – ‘Mattie’ and ‘The Flea’. Some of the suffragette experiences recounted were not new to me but the telling was rich and entertaining.
The book tells the story of the day-to-day life of the two women each with a colourful history of friendship and family relationships. In the middle of the story there are references to the consequences of war and society’s attitude to women.
The story is told about the attempts made by Mattie to empower and develop the interests, and ambitions, of local girls aged between 12 and 18 – ‘The Amazons’. Unfortunately, for a convoluted reason, she acts in a way that drives a wedge between herself ‘the Flea’, the Amazons and the local community. An action she greatly regrets and finding her way out of the problems created, proves difficult.
At times I couldn’t put this book down and I so wanted it all to work out well in the end!

Jacky Young

Nice to receive this book in the post, a book I would never have thought of reading but that’s the joy of book clubs.
A fascinating tale about life after being a suffragette, how their lives moved on, or not. Although set in 1928 many women hadn’t yet received the vote and were still fighting the cause or a cause.
The book revolves around one woman and her outlook on life & how it affects the people around her which after some awkward moments becomes a bit twee in the end of the book.
A fascinating read none the less.

Ella Mitchell

This is a book which one minute makes you laugh then becomes very serious as Mattie starts up her involvement with the Empire Youth League and the Amazons and the various challenges. It made me realise too that I take it for granted I can vote, but only thanks to these suffragettes and everything they did. However, it is not all militant - it can be extremely funny, very thoughtful and moving. The title "Old Baggage" is very apt!

Collette Pigden

Old Baggage tells the story of Miss Simkin and the Flea through the battles of the suffragettes and the on-going struggles faced by women after the war and the expectations that they would be content to return to their roles as homemakers, wives and mothers. Both characters face their own struggles and find their own ways of dealing with them. Miss Simkin tries to continue to empower girls and young women through education, fresher and adventure until she encounters an old comrade who approaches things from a completely different angle.
The Flea, who has devoted her love and life to Miss Simkin supports her in everything until a decision made by her companion changes everything.
This story tells of the efforts of a passionate women to encourage girls and young women to take their rightful place in society and to strive to reach their full potential. The story is sad and frustrating, but as relevant today as in the times in which it is set.
I would recommend this book for independent women and girls who are trying to make their way in the world today.