Old Baggage, by Lissa Evans

This novel, which I picked up almost at random from the e-library after seeing a single reference to it on Goodreads and knowing nothing about the author, turned out to be wonderful. It’s set in London in 1928, and I absolutely loved the characters: Mattie, a former suffragette firebrand who’s been through marches, protests, and prison, and now wonders “what next” in a world where (some) women have the vote yet real change still seems far away; Mattie’s friend and housemate Florrie Lea (“The Flea”), also a suffragette but of a quieter sort, who now works as a Health Visitor trying to help the poorest families in the city; teenage Ida, who ends up working as their housemaid but is also the focus of Mattie’s plans to educate and improve the next generation of young women. When an old friend, another suffrage sister who has decided that what the youth of England really need is a good dose of fascism, enters their lives, Mattie finds a new sense of purpose in trying to combat this vision — but her own personal weaknesses and blind spots lead her to make an error that affects everyone’s lives.

All of these characters were engaging and interesting to me, and the backdrop against which their story is set — what’s the next move when you’ve achieved the goal you spent the first half of your life fighting for? how do you continue to make a difference? can you ever recapture that thrill of working as part of a united movement? — also fascinated me. I highly recommend Old Baggage.

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