The general feeling was that Old Baggage by Lisa Hall was disappointing – it was an easy read which was certainly appreciated, but a bit light and fluffy and touching on a lot of potentially interesting topics without going below the surface – fascism in England, the early years of health visiting, and of course the story of the fight for women’s suffrage . On the plus side it was good to have women portrayed as strong characters. The book is actually a prequel and that maybe contributed to the feel of not quite hanging together as it tells the backstory for an earlier book ‘Crooked heart’. Certainly the ending begs for another tale to come.
The book is set in 1928 when women’s suffrage is about to be extended to women over 21, and looks back to camaraderie that the protests engendered, and we feel the vacuum left in the lives of the protestors once the goal had been partly achieved. It gives a picture of the differences in the lives of women from the various strata of society – comparing those with independent means to those for whom graft was a necessity.
We appreciated the gains that women have made over the years – the suffragette movement gave women today very different lives and opportunities, but change has been very gradual and is not complete. For many of our grandmothers’ marriage meant that they couldn’t continue with work and careers that had been fought or studied for. The hope was expressed that children today – both girls and boys – will grow up seeing women such as Angela Merkel and Kamala Harris in leadership positions as normal rather than exceptional.