She could hear the jangle of the fair in the distance; the music was still playing, dangerously sentimental, and she took a deep breath and began to sing 'The Marseillaise', matching her footsteps to the rhythm of the lines. A spooning couple turned to stare; she nodded at them, pleasantly. People always stared. If one didn't creep around, if one said what one thought, if one shouted for joy or roared with anger, if one tried to get things done, then seemingly there was no choice but to be noticeable. She couldn't remember a time when her path hadn't been lined with startled faces; they were her reassurance that progress was being made.
Old Baggage by Lissa Evans, the prequel to Crooked Heart (now one of my all-time favorite WWII novels) tells the story of Mattie. When Mattie meets up with one of her suffragette friends in 1928 and finds out she's running a camp for young fascists, Mattie decides to start a group for teenage girls to educate them and teach them important life skills. But, one of the girls is unreachable and Mattie's determination to light a spark in her life may end up burning the whole project down.
I loved Mattie in Crooked Heart and was sad when it turned out she was only shown briefly. She is a marvelous, witty, smart, headstrong character. So, I was naturally excited when I heard that she was getting a book of her own. Then, I bought the book and didn't get to it in 2018. Silly me.
Old Baggage was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped. I'd anticipated meeting Mattie during her suffragette years but she is obviously well past that in 1928. In addition to her new cause to educate and enlighten young ladies, Mattie does slide shows and lectures. At least once, that makes for a very entertaining scene. Mattie is single and shares a house with a friend who came temporarily and then stayed on when they realized how comfortably they lived together as housemates. Her housemate is called "The Flea" (a shortening of her name, which I think is Florie Lee, but don't quote me on that) and her house is "The Mousehole", which also has significance.
The ending of Old Baggage goes right up to Mattie's introduction to Noel of Crooked Heart, which is a very satisfying way for Evans to have ended the book. Read one, move on to the other. Ahhh. Remind me never to put off reading another Lissa Evans book, please.
Highly recommended - Brilliant writing and an utterly perfect prequel. Lissa Evans blows me away. Mattie is a wonderful character. I'd still like to read a story set during her days in the Women's Suffrage Movement, but there's certainly plenty of storytelling about that time through her lectures and dialogue. My book group loved Crooked Heart so I'll drag my copy of Old Baggage along to book group to suggest it for future discussion.
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