Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud – review

Mr Mac and meMr Mac and me by Esther Freud

Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky, and more recently Lucky Break, always gets good ratings from our readers. This novel is about Charles Rennie Mackintosh who at the onset of the first world war was at a low ebb. Starved of commissions, he ‘washed up like a piece of driftwood in the Suffolk coastal village of Walberswick, subsisting on his wife’s inheritance and sporadic sales of botanical illustrations. It was a period in his career when Mackintosh might have been forgiven for thinking he couldn’t get arrested – until the local constabulary did just that, keeping the artist in custody for two days on suspicion of being a German spy’….

Mr Mac and Me is set in 1914, and Thomas Maggs, the son of the local publican, lives with his parents and sister in a village on the Suffolk coast. 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 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