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.
Suffragette Mattie Simpkins has dedicated her life to fighting for womens’ right to vote. She has tackled politicians, stood at the forefront of protests and inspired and buoyed the hopes and aspirations of so many under her wing. Now her life, which was once pulsing with speeches (her own), fisticuffs (not her own) and the multiple times she spent in prison, is empty. She is at a loss for what do to.
Mattie is shocked by young womens’ lacklustre reactions to subjects such as politics, history, geography, and more. Taking it upon herself to help, Mattie forms a club. Meeting every weekend on Hampstead Heath, girls from the age of twelve to eighteen are invited to join and broaden their horizons on subjects that could propel them into brilliant vocations. But soon, her past will catch up with her. And someone could bring down everything she is striving for.
Mattie is determined to offer the girls knowledge and opportunities that so many others must forgo. The passion and courage she imbues in them reaps many rewards. In no time at all, the handful of members (Amazons, as they are called) has expanded and every weekend, girls come together under Mattie’s watchful eye. But in the course of her new venture, she discovers a secret in her family.
Health visitor Florrie – The Flea, as she is known – is Mattie’s housemate and is perhaps more reserved than Mattie on the surface but is equally as lovable. You can’t help but cheer on these characters … And also accidentally, excitedly spill your tea when they come up triumphant. Mattie is a force of nature. I loved her for her unassailable courage, commitment, determination and passion.
Old Baggage by Lissa Evans is a rich, tender tale of friendship, love and fighting for what you believe in. Its capacity to move its readers is astounding. I loved it!
Tender. Moving. Beautiful.
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About Lissa Evans
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.
Huge thanks to Anne Cater, Alison Barrow and Doubleday for my review copy!