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July book club

(41 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 03-Jul-18 15:05:58

A thread for those who receive a copy of our July book club choice, Old Baggage, to leave their thoughts and their questions for author Lissa Evans. As ever, if you have bought or borrowed a copy you're also very welcome to join the conversation

gillyknits Fri 06-Jul-18 11:15:03

My copy arrived today. Thank you so much, I’m really looking forward to ready it. Lovely to find a cool corner in this heatwave and curl up with a good book.

ValC Sat 07-Jul-18 20:40:35

I too received a copy today. Thank you very much, it was a lovely surprise. I will have to finish the book I am reading at the moment but can't wait to start Old Baggage, it looks so good.

Purpledaffodil Sat 07-Jul-18 21:15:43

Lucky enough to receive a copy yesterday. Just love hardback fiction. Luxury! Looks like a good read too. Will report soon.

Maggiemaybe Sat 07-Jul-18 22:12:58

Thank you for my copy too. I’m looking forward to reading it and reporting back.

mumofmadboys Sat 07-Jul-18 22:14:37

A copy arrived for me yesterday. A lovely surprise. Thank you.. Will start reading it tonight.

Miriam Tue 10-Jul-18 16:50:26

My copy arrived today, thank you so much. Will start reading it in a few days when I have finished my current book. Really looking forward to reading it and reporting back.

AliBeeee Wed 11-Jul-18 14:23:57

I was away last week and had an unexpected parcel to pick up at the delivery office. I picked it up today and it was a copy of this book. Lovely. Thank you, I look forward to reading it.

chloe1984 Sat 14-Jul-18 19:36:59

I really enjoyed this book and warmed to Mattie and Flea. Perfectly understood how they felt a bit lost in the way their lives had ended up. However was completely taken aback by the ending and am waiting for the next one. Have passed the book on to my neighbour to enjoy. Also loved the artwork on the cover.

GandT Sun 15-Jul-18 14:06:28

Thank you for my surprise win. The book cover is very attractive as are the opening pages. The suffragette colours seem to match those chosen by Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club. Anyone know of a connection? I loved reading this story about women who had been active suffragettes and Mattie's continuing campaign. The rivalry between the Amazons and The Empire Youth League was greatly amusing but such a sad outcome. Now though, I look forward to reading more from this author.

Purpledaffodil Mon 16-Jul-18 20:46:25

I loved this book and the author’s gentle style. The complex relationship between the two main characters is so finely drawn. I liked the way she wrote of the Flea’s orientation so subtly that I had to go back and reread just to make sure I’d drawn the right conclusions.
I should like to ask the author what made her consider the largely unrecorded history of the suffragettes post women’s suffrage as a basis for a novel. Or perhaps I have answered my own question?
In an advert for a previous book, it refers to Noel her godson, so this appears to be a prequel. Now to read more of this delightful author....

gillyknits Tue 17-Jul-18 15:36:26

Spoiler Alert.
What an absolutely captivating read! I found it hard to put down, as I really wanted to find out what happened to Mattie and Flea.
It covered the period after the First World War and after the suffragette movement achieved votes for married women.
Mattie is at a loose end after being so involved in the suffragettes and wants to fill her time with something useful. She starts up a club for girls to improve mind and body and it’s a great success. Mattie is rather outspoken and such a beautifully drawn character that the reader can visualise her stomping across Hampstead Heath.
There are little touches in the book such as the Flea’s lesbian feelings for Mattie, which cause her to run away when she feels that anyone suspects. A clear depiction of attitudes to sexuality at the time. Mattie is quite naive and doesn’t notice.
There is a certain amount of class snobbery from some of the girls and their parents especially in the rival group which is based on fascist beliefs.
I felt that this book beautifully described the nature of the times and loved every page.
Will there be any more books involving Mattie? I really hope so.

GrannyBear Thu 19-Jul-18 21:16:14

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the characters and I enjoyed the storyline, but most of all I enjoyed Lissa Evans’ use of language throughout the book. Lissa Evans has wonderfully descriptive, perceptive style of writing which immediately brings people, places and events to life.

Mattie, the central character, was ‘born into an era of change’ (page 21). Her personal history lies in the suffragette movement and by 1928, the time in which the novel is set, she feels that she has lost her sense of purpose, ‘I was no longer swimming upstream but treading water’ (page 8). The “Old Baggage” of the title could refer to Mattie herself who has essentially, in others’ eyes, served her purpose, or could refer to the memories of her past which remind her that she no longer has the position and importance of former times.

Three of the central characters, Mattie, Florrie and Inez, are each aptly described in a short word picture. Mattie ‘would never take a shortcut that might avoid the battlefield; she simply couldn’t dissemble, couldn’t mute her own reactions, couldn’t turn a blind eye’ (page 121).

Florrie ‘had grown up in a household where unchecked laughter had been seen as bodily failing, rather like breaking wind’ (page 11).

Inez was ‘utterly vapid, as restless as a marzipan lemon’ (page 139).

Wonderful phrases are scattered throughout the book. Swifts ‘tracing parabolas against a dappled sky’ (page 209); Ida’s tyrant aunt ‘a tigress of rare stripe’ (page 269) and (probably my favourite!!) ‘She stood up, a noise like that of a pepper grinder emanating from both knees’.

In order to regain her sense of purpose, Mattie forms The Amazons, a club for girls with a focus on being outdoors and engaging in physical activity. The storyline follows the progress of the girls, their club and their rivalry with The Empire Youth League. Mattie’s downfall comes when she organises a showdown between the two groups, the aftermath of which is devastating and quite unexpected.

Overall this is a very good read. The book held my attention from the start until the final chapter. I found the update to 1933 rather disappointing. In my view it was unnecessary. I felt it took the storyline in too new a direction and, frankly, seems to have been written only to introduce the possibility of a sequel. I would like to ask Lissa Evans if her intention was to use the final chapter as a trailer for the next instalment of Mattie’s life.

nettyandmasey Fri 20-Jul-18 10:47:17

thank you for my copy. It took me a while to get into this, but very different to my normal choice. In the end I realy enjoyed it. I think it's a shame Flea's feelings for Mattie aren't explored more. I have found all the programmes about the suffragettes fascinating as I realised my nanny would have been in her twenties at the time. She was in service but called home when her mother was killed, one of the first people to be killed by a car. Having found the newspaper report on the accident she was found to be 'quite dead' how you can be anything else but dead I don't know. My mum has always said nothing seemed to be thought of two women who lived together in her time, was it naivety I don't know. It was good to read of the treatment of the protestors as I had seen in the tv programmes showing a thorough research of the subject.

NicolaD Mon 23-Jul-18 09:59:13

Thank you for my copy! It came as a pleasant surprise and I wasn't disappointed with the book at all. I thought it was a wonderful novel; its flowing, seamless style enabled me to jump right in and acquaint myself with the characters: Mattie - energetic, headstrong determined - she bounds onto the page, and Florrie - equally wonderful but quiet and supportive (and with a whisper of a secret). The novel gives a great snapshot of a particular time and place, exploring how a fond memory may not represent the whole truth. I am ready to dive into all Lissa's other novels and would dearly like to know what she has planned for her next book!

GeminiJen Mon 23-Jul-18 20:00:45

Thanks GN and Lissa Evans. Another good read flowers

This is a sharply observed, often comic, but also deeply sad story. 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, are both key themes. The author 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 Florrie at her work as a health visitor, trying to ameliorate the desperate tide of poverty and ignorance of the inter-war years.
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 Florrie 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.
With so many books set at the time of women’s suffrage in this, the centenary year, it’s a pleasure to read one which shows life after the achievement of the first votes for women. Coming a century after that achievement, but at a time when the struggle for equality and decent treatment is clearly still ongoing, it's also a salutary read.

My questions for the author:
Did the idea for this book come to you while you were writing Crooked Heart or had you always planned to write a prequel?
And do you have plans to return to these characters, telling us more about Ida’s or Inez's future perhaps, or more about Noel?

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 24-Jul-18 11:47:13

This is indeed a prequel - in fact we did the first book for book club when it came out (Crooked Heart) - highly recommend if you've not read yet!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 24-Jul-18 11:47:49

Also to the rest who have had copies of the book - do leave your thoughts and questions here and we will send them over to the author in a week or so

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 24-Jul-18 11:48:19


This is indeed a prequel - in fact we did the first book for book club when it came out (Crooked Heart) - highly recommend if you've not read yet!

(as a couple of people have mentioned already!) grin

Pittcity Tue 24-Jul-18 13:33:27

Another good book choice from GN.
Lissa's descriptions draw you in to the story and help you visualise the people and places.
Mattie has "no wish to look like the veteran of an historic war", but goes on to say that "The battle is not yet over; every day brings fresh skirmishes." But it seems that the suffragette warrior has now become "Old baggage" who needs new direction in life at the age of 58.
The comic touches are Enid Blytonesque with homemade lemonade, slingshot practise and treasure hunts, but behind this is a woman who firmly believes in female equality and will do her utmost to achieve something that has still not been fully realised a hundred years later.
I read Crooked Heart when it was GN's book choice and was glad of the last chapter which joined the two books.

humptydumpty Tue 24-Jul-18 13:53:03

After not being keen (on Mattie) initially, as the book progressed, I really loved it - fascinating insight into the struggle of suffragettes; loved the humour from Mattie despite sorrows relating to her brothers; and the back-stories around the first world war. A very impressive book, and great read.

Miriam Tue 24-Jul-18 17:06:44

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I loved the gentle humour and the general pace of the story. The setting of Hampstead Heath brought back memories of when I grew up in the nearby area so I had a clear picture of the area. All the characters were given life in such a lovely way, even though they were different classes and background they came together in a believable way. Although there were sad moments, Mattie's brothers and her relationship with The Flea, her humour got her through.

I will now have to read Crooked Heart and hope that Lissa Evans has plans for another book with Mattie.

LynnKnowles Wed 25-Jul-18 12:59:37

I warmed to the book - took me a while to get into it.
Liked the subtler drawn characters, sensitively dealt with as the book progressed. The gentle humour eased me into the book.Thank you !

Freesialover Wed 25-Jul-18 15:57:18

I can’t decide whether I enjoyed this book or not. It certainly wasn’t a page turner but now that I’ve finisged it, I do keep thinking about it.

I found it hard to get into and didn’t warm to Mattie. I thought The Flea was a much more likeable character and that after the war she had actually achieved more by qualifying as a health visitor and making, (or at least trying to make), a difference to the lives of women by her actions than Mattie who sheltered behind words.

Like GrannyBear I thought the 1933 update was unnecessary and spoilt the ending.

Overall though it was an interesting book. I wonder what Mattie and her friends would make about the level of political engagement now and whether they would feel the vote they campaigned so hard for is really appreciated.

humptydumpty Wed 25-Jul-18 16:09:39

Not having read Crooked Heart, I was confused - is the boy who appears in the 1933 section actually Noel from Crooked Heart? - in which case it makes complete sense to have that section in, since this is a prequel.