Summary and book reviews of Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud

Mr. Mac and Me

by Esther Freud

Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud X
Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

Mr. Mac and Me is the story of an unlikely friendship, and a vivid portrait of one of the most brilliant and misunderstood artists of his generation.

1914. Thomas Maggs is thirteen and lives with his parents and sister at the Blue Anchor pub, in the village of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. Born in winter while the sea stormed, Thomas is the youngest child, and the only son surviving. In Dunwich, life is quiet and shaped by the seasons: fishing and farming, the summer visitors, and the girls who come down from the Highlands to gut and pack the herring. Thomas visits his brothers' grave in the churchyard, sketches the boats from the harbor, and longs for adventure - a chance to go to sea.

Then one day a mysterious Scotsman and his red-haired wife arrive in the village. The man's name is Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but the locals are soon calling him Mac. Mac and his wife are both artists, regarded as eccentrics in town, but a source of wonder and fascination for Thomas.

Yet just as Thomas and Mac's friendship begins to bloom, war with Germany is declared. The summer guests flee, replaced by regiments of soldiers on their way to Belgium. 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.

Mr. Mac and Me is the story of an unlikely friendship, and a vivid portrait of one of the most brilliant and misunderstood artists of his generation.

Chapter 1

I was born upstairs in the small bedroom, not in the smallest room with the outshot window, where I sleep now, or the main room that is kept for guests - summer visitors who write and let us know that they are coming and how long they plan to stay. Sometimes, after a night's drinking, folk may rest there, although Mother always takes their money off them first. If she doesn't they wake up and protest they don't know how they came to be lying in that fine wide bed, say they've been apprehended and held there, in comfort against their will. But that is at harvest time, when men and boys come to wash away the wheat chaff tickling their throats, or in high summer when they've spent the day thinning out the wild oats from hay. But I was born in winter, the sea storming on the beach beyond, roaring through the night, louder than my mother, whose ninth child I was.

My father was over at Sogg's Fen searching out a rabbit, and when he came back in he brought with him news that ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Thomas Maggs has dreamed of going to sea his whole life, but his family is staunchly opposed. What appeal does the ocean hold for him? Why is his desire so troubling to his parents?

  2. Thomas is initially drawn to Mr. Mac because of their mutual handicap. Does this ultimately tie them together in any way? How do they each respond to their legs? Is there a difference between the two?

  3. Thomas spends a great deal of time exploring the area around his town and is accustomed to being able to travel about undetected because he knows the land so well. And yet Mr. Mac is always aware of his presence. What about Mr. Mac makes him aware of Thomas in a way that those who have been around him his whole life are not?

  4. Once the war begins, the village ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Esther Freud concentrates a whole range of wartime experiences and emotions – fear, courage, and doubts – into this one village, and one young man trying to make his way. Tommy is a gently companionable narrator, and through him readers get what feels like a privileged glimpse into the life of a historical figure. Freud sets up an especially good contrast between the idyllic beauty of an English village and the perils of wartime. What with the centenary of World War I, the time is right for reading books set in the 1910s. Although Mr. Mac and Me is set during the war, it is a distinctly offbeat selection, more about family relationships and unlikely friendships than it is about the actual conflict.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

[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.

Booklist

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A touching coming-of-age story, powerfully but gracefully infused with a spirit of place, which also pays tribute to a revered artist.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Charles Rennie Mackintosh ("Mr. Mac")

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Mackintosh (1868–1928), one of the central characters in Esther Freud's Mr. Mac and Me, was one of 11 children born to a police superintendent and his wife in Glasgow, Scotland. Early on he showed promise as an architect, winning the 1890 Alexander Thomson Traveling Studentship, which funded his travel around Europe to study classic architecture. He joined the Honeyman & Keppie architectural practice and began his first project, designing the Glasgow Herald Building (now The Lighthouse, Scotland's Center for Architecture, Design and the City). Although he made partner in 1904, he left to set up his own practice in 1913.

In 1892 Mackintosh met his future wife, Margaret, during evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art. She, ...

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