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Old Baggage
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Old Baggage (Paperback)

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Synopsis

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Shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Literature 2019



'A timely, bittersweet comic novel' Guardian

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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, 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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'Essential . . . Evans is a brilliant storyteller' Stylist

Fiction & PoetryHistorical FictionWar & combat fictionSecond World War fictionFiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945 Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd Publication Date: 27/12/2018 ISBN-13: 9781784161217  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Lissa Evans has written books for both adults and children, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, longlisted for the Orange Prize, Small Change for Stuart, shortlisted for many awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards and Crooked Heart, longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

More books by Lissa Evans

Customer Reviews

There are some books which are so good that I struggle to find words to suggest how much I appreciate them, and this is one of them. A novel with a big agenda in some ways, yet carefully controlled as the story of a few women who are struggling in a world where part of their lives’ work has been achieved, yet in many ways not much has changed. It is essentially the tale of what happened to those brave women who took on the establishment when there was every danger of them being ignored, only to find their fight had perhaps not essentially changed attitudes and real oppression. It is the story of women who lost much in a war, but have been prevented from fighting and winning their own battles. Evans chooses to base her novel on one woman and those around her, but it is the story of a movement which had inspired her life, and left many women bereft of purpose in a world where their battle seems to be won, but much has not improved. It is undoubtedly a clever idea, to remember the damaging battle for the vote, the First World War, and the brave new post war world in which the women now find themselves through the eyes of a strong but frustrated woman. Mattie Simpson is first seen as the victim of a robbery. She is not upset at the loss of her bag as the loss of her weapon which symbolised the suffrage battles which still dominate her mind for so much of the time. She lives some of the time in her memories of when she and her friends, allies, made a difference, took real action to fight for what they believed in, even to the extent of ruining their health and the real fear of forcible feeding in prison (readers of a delicate disposition should look away). The camaraderie of common ideals has been reduced to fighting minor skirmishes with neighbours and others shocked by her lifestyle. Her faithful companion, Florrie or “The Flea” is a sort of health visitor, made angry by the suffering of the mothers and babies she sees. Significantly as she is without property herself she cannot use the vote hard won in the campaign she actually managed in the mundane tasks of administration. She has a secret sadness, but eventually cannot continue picking up the pieces of others’ lives. One of the former suffragettes has married and found her hope in a form of fascism; another war is approaching and some see their hope in values familiar to those familiar with the rise of the right. Another has become an alcoholic, trying to grasp reality but struggling to survive. Not that this is a miserable book in any sense; there are times it can be funny and the main protagonist is often wilfully awkward. Evans uses her true ear for dialogue to convey so many people here, the strong willed, the sad, the ambitious, the caring. In some ways this is the story of an obsession, which causes grief. It is a novel about the loss of a sense of purpose, as well as brothers in battles which did not improve the lives of most people. However, there is a sense of hope, of change, of improvement from which the next generation will benefit. This book is based in London, but the Heath becomes almost a character as it is the place of so much of the action. It is a book rooted in a place, yet with characters who go beyond the here and now. I truly enjoyed this novel, and am so glad to read a review copy in advance of publication. I hope it finds the readership it richly deserves.

- 04/01/2019
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