Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Margot & Me

Fliss loves her mother, so when she suggests a spell in Wales will help her recovery from cancer, she can hardly refuse. Internally she can complain all she likes, as they go to live on her grandmother’s farm in the absolute middle of nowhere. There’s not even internet! Fliss and Margot instantly get off on the wrong foot and Fliss can’t wait to get back to London. But when Fliss find’s Margot’s journal, she learns of a different woman, one who lived through the war, who had compassion and fire. How can she reconcile these two Margots and what happened in between?

The war is real to us now. Any delusion that this was all a jaunty holiday to the Welsh countryside is forgotten.

From the very first page I loved Margot, as she explains the problem with today’s kids is that they all think they’re special. Hah, I know we are probably meant to side with Fliss and slowly come around to like her grandmother as the story unravels. My age is probably showing! Plus, I’d love to go live on a farm in Wales.

It’s set in the late 90s in order to make Margot’s age work. It’s not immediately obvious, just a mention of 1988 being ten years ago, and they still watch videos. There’s also a lack of mobiles and social media, which allows for greater isolation from Fliss’ old life.

Sometimes progress is saying no and meaning it.

The narration is shared between Fliss and her grandmother’s journal entries. Fliss isn’t exactly fitting in at her new school and the journal becomes a distraction for her. She reads about how Margot was evacuated from London in the 40s, going to live on the farm where she finds herself now. There are tales of hot boys and prejudice, and a woman who stood up for what she knew to be right, even if other people hadn’t caught up yet.

Fliss is a spoiled brat and really quite rude at the start of the book. I was a bit concerned about the portrayal of the Welsh versus Londoners, although Fliss does come around later. She’s quite superior, thinking that Londoners are more progressive and civilised. It doesn’t help that the first girls she meets at school are the bullies. It’s important to keep in mind everywhere has moved on since the 90s and I hope Welsh kids don’t pick this up and feel insulted. There are good Welsh people in it too.

It makes me so mad. I don't get how you can be so horrible to each other. Can you imagine if adults carried on the way some of you lot do?

As Fliss gets to know Margot through her journal and makes friends at school, she starts to soften as a character. She even gives up meat to rescue a piglet from the slaughterhouse (OK, also to prove a point to Margot). By the end, it’s incredibly moving both in sad and positive ways.

Margot & Me is published by Hot Key Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 26th January 2017. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

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