Cover image for Old baggage : a novel
Title:
Old baggage : a novel
ISBN:
9780062895448
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
#1 London Times bestseller. --Cover.
Summary:
1928. Riffling through a cupboard, Matilda Simpkin comes across a small wooden club--an old possession that she hasn't seen for more than a decade. Immediately, memories come flooding back to Mattie--memories of a thrilling past, which only further serve to remind her of her chafingly uneventful present. During the Women's Suffrage Campaign, she was a militant who was jailed five times and never missed an opportunity to return to the fray. Now in middle age, the closest she gets to the excitement of her old life is the occasional lecture on the legacy of the militant movement. After running into an old suffragette comrade who has committed herself to the wave of Fascism, Mattie realizes there is a new cause she needs to fight for and turns her focus to a new generation of women. Thus the Amazons are formed, a group created to give girls a place to not only exercise their bodies but their minds, and ignite in young women a much-needed interest in the world around them. But when a new girl joins the group, sending Mattie's past crashing into her present, every principle Mattie has ever stood for is threatened. --
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Summary

#1 UK Bestseller

"A thoughtful, funny, companionable novel...executed with verve."--London Times

The author of the acclaimed Crooked Heart returns with a comic, charming, and surprisingly timely portrait of a once pioneering suffragette trying to find her new passion in post-WWI era London.

1928. Riffling through a cupboard, Matilda Simpkin comes across a small wooden club--an old possession that she hasn't seen for more than a decade. Immediately, memories come flooding back to Mattie--memories of a thrilling past, which only further serve to remind her of her chafingly uneventful present. During the Women's Suffrage Campaign, she was a militant who was jailed five times and never missed an opportunity to return to the fray. Now in middle age, the closest she gets to the excitement of her old life is the occasional lecture on the legacy of the militant movement.

After running into an old suffragette comrade who has committed herself to the wave of Fascism, Mattie realizes there is a new cause she needs to fight for and turns her focus to a new generation of women. Thus the Amazons are formed, a group created to give girls a place to not only exercise their bodies but their minds, and ignite in young women a much-needed interest in the world around them. But when a new girl joins the group, sending Mattie's past crashing into her present, every principle Mattie has ever stood for is threatened.

Old Baggage is a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never given up the fight and the young women who are just discovering it.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Evans's fourth novel (following Their Finest) is a thoughtful and satisfying story featuring 50-something Mattie Simpkins, a suffragette living in 1928 London with her friend Flossie, or, as everyone calls her, the Flea. Instead of still being on the front lines of change, the women now lead predictable, comfortable lives, which bothers Mattie as she fondly recalls fighting for the right to vote. But after running into a former suffragette who tries to turn young people toward Fascism, Mattie and the Flea are spurred into forming their own organization for young women called the Amazons, with the goal of educating the next generation to be thoughtful and engaged as opposed to being focused on marriage and going to the movies. When Inez joins the club, Mattie is shocked to discover they have a connected past. Trying to motivate Inez to become a strong person, Mattie inadvertently does something that upsets the Flea and threatens the club. Evans weaves an enchanting tale around Mattie and her circle of friends as they attempt to imbue a new generation with their feminist and antifascist values; readers will be captivated. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

The fight is never over for an aging English political militant whose stalwart standards are endangered by emotional baggage.What became of the suffragettes after the vote was mainly won? This is the question Evans (Their Finest, 2017, etc.) addresses in her latest spirited historical novel. Most became respectable, some turned to good works, some drank too much, and somelike Matilda Simpkinfound it hard to channel their intelligence and drive. Mattie is a force of nature: "If she storms the barricades, they'll certainly stay stormed. She's a one-woman battalion." But now her campaigning days are over, and Mattie is underoccupieduntil she forms the Amazons, a girls' club that will teach "knowledge, confidence, ready laughter and a strong overarm throw." In London in 1928, however, Mattie has competition for the children's attention. A couple of wealthy local Fascists have set up a rival club, the Empire Youth League, espousing nationalism, marching, and an admiration for Mussolini. Mattie must rise to the challenge. Evans, an appealing writer with a taste for unusual historical characters and perspectives as well as sly comic surprises, draws a nicely detailed portrait of post-World War I England, a country drawing breath after the devastating military campaign. Her focus on poverty and health, and the challenges facing women of all classes, brings a sense of social outrage (and modernity) to the story. More privately, Mattie shares her home with another ex-suffragette, Florrie Lee, aka The Flea, whose modest, undeclared love for Mattie introduces a quiet yet affecting note of emotional attachment. These simple storylines are complicated by flaws, follies, and compromised good sense in a tale which reveals itself to be a prequel to Crooked Heart, a curious and minor narrative perhaps, but blessed with qualities that are hard to resist.Evans impresses again, less for the scale of her narrative than for the charm of its large-hearted heroine. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Old baggage is what the callow boys of the Empire Union League call Mattie Simpson as she marches the sprightly young charges in her Amazon girls' club through early-twentieth-century London. Simpson is a bit of an anachronism, fervently clinging to old-fashioned ideals of valor and propriety while advocating for ultramodern ideas of feminism and independence for women. She has been formed and forged by the women's suffrage movement, and her closest allies are those who have been in the protest trenches with her. Most notable among them is her housemate, Florrie Lee, affectionately known as the Flea. As a home healthcare worker, the Flea brings her own brand of emancipation to London's working-class women overburdened by unwanted pregnancies and unfulfilling employment. The two make a formidable pair until a young girl with a surprising tie to Mattie's past causes her to renounce her high-minded notions and jeopardize their welfare. Evans' (Their Finest, 2017) vibrant glimpse into the personal sacrifices of these valiant suffragettes teems with period atmosphere and zesty satiric glee.--Carol Haggas Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Mattie Simpkin fought the good fight as a young suffragist, earning women the right to vote. Now in middle age, however, she is disappointed with the lack of care and concern young women have for politics and their rights. When she jumps upon a young woman to ask who her favorite political figure is, or any political figure, she is upset to learn that young women still have too much to do around the home and at work to "lead the charge" for equality as Mattie once did. Mattie and her companion "The Flea" decide to assist the youth of 1928 by creating an all-girls club called the Amazons, focusing on health of mind, body, and the progress of young women. Evans introduced readers to Mattie briefly in her previous novel, Crooked Heart, and this fleshed-out tale does the delightful character justice. Mattie feels like a trusted (if slightly batty) friend and comrade, and Evans's writing is enchanting. VERDICT Recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction, especially those interested in first-wave feminism.-Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.