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Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud

Mr Mac and Me

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

An intriguing historical novel set between 1914 and 1915 in a Suffolk fishing village. Told by Tom, a 13/14-year old boy with two central themes, one about his impressions of the early war years and the effect on his family and the community, and the other about his relationship with the Mackintoshes, the famous (but not then) Glaswegian architect and his beautiful artist wife. Tom is enthralled by them and they encourage him to paint. And then the very end of the book covers the rest of Tom’s life until he is 95. It is an impressive, beautifully written work which completely draws you into the life on the home front during the First World War. Magnificent.

If you like Esther Freud you might also like to read books by Penelope Fitzgerald, Kazuo Ishiguro and Graham Swift.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. A novel of great delicacy, this tells the poignant story of the year spent by the great Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the Suffolk village of Walberswick from the summer of 1914. Befriended by young Thomas Maggs, the son of a publican, Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald are viewed with some suspicion by the villagers, and, as the war continues, their correspondence with German and Austrian patrons results in the eventual arrest for spying of the quiet, self-absorbed, blameless ‘Mr Mac’ Thomas’s home life is an uneasy one, and as he tries to take his future into his own hands, he becomes ever more closely linked to Mackintosh, a man whose fortunes are on the decline and who is struggling to make ends meet. Subtle, restrained, and beautifully written, this is a fine novel of art and nature, and of life’s ebbs and flows.
~ Karen Howlett


Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud

It is 1914, and Thomas Maggs, the son of the local publican, lives with his parents and sister in a village on the Suffolk coast. He is the youngest child, and the only son surviving. Life is quiet - shaped by the seasons, fishing and farming, the summer visitors, and the girls who come down from the Highlands every year to gut and pack the herring. Then one day a mysterious Scotsman arrives. To Thomas he looks for all the world like a detective, in his black cape and hat of felted wool, and the way he puffs on his pipe as if he's Sherlock Holmes. Mac is what the locals call him when they whisper about him in the inn. And whisper they do, for he sets off on his walks at unlikely hours, and stops to examine the humblest flowers. He is seen on the beach, staring out across the waves as if he's searching for clues. But Mac isn't a detective, he's the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and together with his red-haired artist wife, they soon become a source of fascination and wonder to Thomas. Yet just as Thomas and Mac's friendship begins to blossom, war with Germany is declared. The summer guests flee and are replaced by regiments of soldiers on their way to Belgium, and as the brutality of war weighs increasingly heavily on this coastal community, they become more suspicious of Mac and his curious behaviour.


'A compelling tale beautifully told, Mr Mac & Me is as close to a perfect novel as anything I've read in a long time. I loved every page of it.'

- Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto.

'I was utterly absorbed in the language and the story and the world of it ... You know how it is when a writer draws into a place and you begin to feel it is more substantial than the one around you? That is how this book was for me. I truly loved it .'

- Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

'Attending to Esther Freud's still, truthful voice becomes not only a pleasure but a necessity.'

-Jonathan Coe

'Freud has a precious and remarkable gift.'

- The Times

'A superbly gifted writer.'

- New York Times, Book Review

'The best that art can be: full of exploration, full of intuition, full of generosity - and full of love.'

- Julie Myerson

About the Author

Esther Freud

Esther Freud was born in London in 1963. She trained as an actress before writing her first novel, Hideous Kinky, which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and made into a feature film starring Kate Winslet. Her other novels include The Sea House, Summer at Gaglow, The Wild, Peerless Flats and most recently, Love Falls. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Esther Freud

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Historical Fiction
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