Evesham & District

Old Baggage - Lissa Evans

The story is set in 1920s London, in the Hampstead Heath area. Two former suffragettes, Mattie Simpkin and Florrie Lee (The Flea) live in Mattie’s property which they call “The Mousehole”. Florrie is a Sanitary Inspector, and Mattie has private means. This book is the prequel to Crooked Heart, set in WW2. Mattie sets up the Amazons, a group for young girls which meets at weekends on Hampstead Heath. Another group, The Empire Youth League, is set up by another former suffragette. The book tells the story of the relationship between Mattie, Florrie, and the various people in their circle.

The group found this a good read, almost a historical novel, giving vignettes of how the affluent middle class lived, compared with the poverty of the time. Mattie tried to educate girls from the lower classes, encouraging them to think for themselves, but was not always kind to Florrie and the girls. Some found Mattie irritating, always very sure she's right from her privileged position. The contents of her handbag gave insight into her character and values. She abandoned her principles in one scene, on discovering her newly found niece and brother were not what she hoped.

Changes in the position of women in society at that time are described in a light and readable way. A female prime minister was not dreamt of in those days.

It's also a story of unrequited love, unrequited love, with characters sharply-observed with sensitivity, and witty dialogue. A moving read.

March 2021