Cover image for Mr. Mac and me
Mr. Mac and me
Freud, Esther, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2015.
Physical Description:
296 pages ; 22 cm
1914. In the village of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast young Thomas Maggs befriends mysterious Scotsman and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh whom the locals call Mac. Just as Thomas and Mac's friendship begins to bloom, war with Germany is declared and as the war weighs increasingly heavily on the community, the villagers on the home front become increasingly suspicious of Mac and his curious behavior.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
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It is 1914, and Thomas Maggs, 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 from the Highlands every year to gut and pack the herring.

Then one day a mysterious Scotsman arrives. To Thomas he looks like a detective in his black cape and felted wool hat, puffing on his pipe like Sherlock Holmes. Mac is what the locals call him when they whisper about him. 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, andtogether with his 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, and as the brutality of war weighs increasingly heavily on this coastal community, they become more suspicious of Mac and his curious ways.

In this story of an unlikely friendship, Esther Freud paints a vivid portrait of the home front during World War I, and of a man who was one of the most brilliant and misunderstood artists of his generation.

Author Notes

Esther Freud made her writing debut with Hideous Kinky , which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and made into a feature film starring Kate Winslet. She is also the author of Peerless Flats , Summer at Gaglow , The Wild , The Sea House , Love Falls , and, most recently, Lucky Break . Esther Freud was named one of Granta 's Best Young British Novelists in 1993. She lives in London and Suffolk. @estherfreudrite

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It is 1914, and 14-year-old Thomas Maggs, the son of pub owners, is having a rough go of it. He's half-lame and sensitive about it; his father is an abusive drunk; and his poor ma is always worried about money. When a Scottish stranger named Mac shows up, dressed in a long black cape, Thomas is intrigued, especially when he espies Mac and his artist wife creating wonderful paintings, and he soon becomes friends with the couple. Mac is an expert on local flora and fauna and scours the island with his binoculars, looking for ideal specimens to paint, but when war threatens, the locals begin to suspect that he might be a spy. Freud has based this novel on the life of Scottish architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a renegade ahead of his time. What Freud captures so exquisitely in this lovely, slow-paced tale is the way the rhythms of village life are so closely tied to the land and sea; whether the task is fishing for eels or growing herbs, the action and its setting are conveyed in lucent prose.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Freud (Hideous Kinky) adds her voice to the chorus marking the centenary of WWI with this novel inspired by an incident in the life of Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It's 1914 when Thomas Maggs, a 12-year-old boy growing up in a small fishing village in Suffolk, befriends Mr. Mac, a newcomer, and his artist wife, Margaret. At first, Mr. Mac and his odd ways, such as painting the indigenous flowers, make him a prime source of speculation to the locals, who soon have other things on their minds as war is declared. Village boys go off to fight, soldiers are billeted in the village, and German zeppelins fly overhead on the way to bomb London. Because of German writing found in his letters, Mr. Mac is accused of being an enemy spy. But Thomas finds that the truth is quite different. The war informs every aspect of life in the fishing village, despite its distance from the battlefield, and Freud does an excellent job of describing its circadian rhythms with the incisive depth of a John Cowper Powys. But when it comes to drama, her novel is a little on the anemic side, as there isn't much of a mystery behind Mr. Mac's letter writing. In the end, what this novel does best is introduce the reader to the life of an unsung hero of architecture. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

On the eve of World War I, in poor health and financially strapped, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his artist wife, Margaret, wash up in a seaside English village. The working-class townspeople regard them with curiosity and suspicion-they are foreigners (from Scotland!), artists (Bohemians!), have German books on their shelves (art catalogs), and roam the countryside with binoculars (the better to view their floral subjects). However, to young Thomas Maggs, son of the local innkeeper, they are exotic and enchanting. In their tidy cottage, he finds a welcome refuge from his schoolwork, his endless round of chores, and his angry, drunken father. Tom and his new friends observe the changing landscape when war breaks out as zeppelins fly overhead, soldiers are billeted in town, and local boys join up and die. VERDICT Along with popular fictional biographies such as Loving Frank, The Paris Wife, and Z, this period novel from Freud (Hideous Kinky; Lucky Break) will surely captivate. It may also inspire a visit to Glasgow for tea and scones in the Willow Tearooms, a Mackintosh architectural gem. Warmly recommended.-Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.