Young Thomas lives by the coast in a village in Suffolk. It is 1914 and life for this little boy, evolves around his two older sisters, he being the only surviving boy, his mother and his drunkard father in one of the two local public houses in the village – The Blue Anchor.
Everything in Thomas life is dictated by the weather and the seasons. He earns a few pennies by helping a local village rope maker, which he religiously saves under his bed in the hope that one day he can escape this place. He waits for the girls that come every season to gut the fish that are caught. He doodles in the margins of his schoolwork much to the wrath of his teacher. He knows when to hide from his father after the drink takes over his personality and it is taken out on his mother.
The rest of the time Thomas spends his life dreaming about life away, life on the sea.
When an odd stranger suddenly arrives in the village and starts to spend lots of time int he countryside and staring out across the vast sea, Thomas interest is piqued.
What begins is a friendship between this man, known as Mr Mac and subsequently his wife. Mr Mac is looking at the countryside very differently to Thomas. He can see its beauty within and how that can be portrayed differently and for others to see far away from the beauty that surrounds the areas that Thomas lives. Mr Mac is in fact Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
When war begins, Thomas takes it upon himself to watch his particular part of the Suffolk coast with care, he visits daily to make sure that there is nothing to report. He is fascinated by those who now have a chance to go to sea and he watches his new friend, Mr Mac.
For Mr Mac seems to becoming even more stranger, especially when he is seen spending a lot of time looking out to sea at odd times of the day. With a country now at war, everyone that acts strangely could be the enemy.
This book is not a fast pace read. It is one to take your time with, to follow the paths across the Suffolk countryside, through the village, along the coast. To experience the weather and to watch as a community comes together in the face of war in an unknown land. A moving read.
This is the first Esther Freud that I have read after having seen her talk at a Guildford Book Festival Readers Day a couple of years ago I was captivated by this book. I know little about Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I have always thought his designs were striking and have always drawn my eye. In some ways this book drew more into the person as opposed to the design. And now I am more interested in Mackintosh.
Have you read any Esther Freud – where should I go next?