Mr. Mac and Me
Author: Esther Freud
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2014
Hardcover edition: 293 pages
Source: Personal copy
Some may call the Suffolk Coast of England dreary, but reading Ms. Freud’s novel Mr. Mac and Me set in that region, the place seems anything but dreary. She has visited the region and owned at least two homes there. She suffuses her story of the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his friendship with the young Thomas Maggs with the thick sea air and the quiet beauty of that place.
Mackintosh was not fully appreciated during his lifetime, though today he is well-known for his design of the Glasgow School of Art and is a celebrated figure of the design world. For a time he lived in a village on the Suffolk coast painting flowers. His friendship with thirteen year-old Thomas Maggs developed slowly during that time when he lived in the village where Thomas’ family lived in and ran the Blue Anchor Pub. Ms. Freud once owned the small house that was that pub and the house where the fictional Thomas and his family lived.
Ms. Freud is a close observer of daily life and place. Her story transports the reader to the English coast and the brutality of life during the World War I. Small details of what life was like for those on an exposed portion of the coast during that war are carefully brought to life. Just as Mac painted the flora of that time and place, Ms. Freud renders life in the village in loving detail: the sea, the bridge, the kitchen fire in an open hearth. Her writing is poetic and tender as is the story she tells.
A member of my family is a fan of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and at his urging we visited his most famous design when in Glasgow a few years ago. For those reasons I picked up this book at Book Mark, the bookshop by the sea in Neptune Beach, Florida. This is the author’s eight novel, the first for this reader. I look forward to both reading more of her work and learning more about the work and life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.