It’s a lovely book about friendship, life during the war, life in small communities and artistry. Reknowned Artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh moves to the beautiful coastal village of Dunwich and develops an unlikely friendship with the young local Thomas Maggs who has a small disability – a twisted leg – but posseses a great ambition for sea fairing adventures.
The only dominating difference between Thomas and Mr Mac lies in their age, besides that, they have so much more in common which naturally united them. The book has a first person narration, told from the point of view of young Thomas Maggs. It takes place in 1914 during the great world war in the village of Dunwhich on the English coast of Suffolk. It’s a fishing community and Thomas is from a family who has lost a great number of its men at sea. They were the sort of brave sea men who were naturally drawn out into the sea – it was in their blood – and it is that natural inclination that took them to their early grave.
Thomas has brothers who never survived, they died early due to illness and the only ones to survive were his 2 sisters. He was the only boy to make it and the youngest in the family too. Being the only surviving boy child, both the parents especially the mother became determined to keep him alive, to have Thomas outlive them unlike the other 3 brothers. They forbade him from going out into the sea and tried to extinguish any interest – which naturally ran in his blood towards – towards sea fairing activities. However that yearning to be out in the sea roared within him like the sound of waves hitting on the reef.
Charles Renneie Mackintosh is a real iconic artist and this book provides a fictional narrative on his brief stay in the village of Dunwich which I assume produced some of his greatest work. He grew up with the natural interest and inclination towards the art however this was greatly shunned upon by his father who insisted on a more economically practical career path. Luckily he came upon the field of Architecture which balanced his artistic enthusiasm and the promise of financial stability. He melted into the field of architecture naturally, the money came and he was touted as a great talent, his works were of great success. However as a young artist taken under an agency, he was wasn’t given the credit that he rightfully deserved for his art. He was unfairly treated and a single act of defying the big bosses had him cast out and he struggled to find work. Plus his art was sort of unconventional and revolutionary for that era, so as you can imagine it was not easily accepted by everybody and there was always tough resistance present. However there was a niche market who were appreciative of it. I have to mention that his wife was an artist too, a great artist and together they moved to Dunwich and worked on separate passion projects.
Life was hard for people and behind these hardships were a lot of factors, some referenced mildly in this book. There was poor health care and a significant number of people died due to this and the most vulnerable being young children. The young men were going out to war leaving behind heartbroken mother’s, wives and girlfriend also those men who were left behind felt disheartened and resorted to drinking developing a drinking problem resulting in battered wives and battered families.
Life was difficult for both the characters. Thomas had an abusive father and they were struggling to get by and their business of running the Inn was not doing well in that time of war, they struggled to pay the rent and make ends meet. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was having a hard time financially too, he was actually painting to make ends meet. Also he was strongly plagued by the strong feelings of injustice he felt he had been dealt being an architect.
They had there own unique set of suffering but what was very similar about them was their ambition and there yearning to realize it. They were both ambitious individuals and had a flair for art. The least of their troubles was what the difficulties that arose from the war but their concern had more to do with their personal dreams and all that stood in their way against.
What I loved about the book was the description of both Mr and Mrs Macs commitment and focus to their work. They moved to Dunwich for the beautiful scenery and the variety of flowers that grows there. So Mr Mac would go out, pick out a flower and make a real life impression of it. He was focussed. They even built a shed to carry out their work and hold all their artwork. So when they are in there they are in the zone – just going for it with an intense focus.
Thomas often visited them and they encouraged him to also paint. Thomas drew about what he was most passionate about – he drew the Ship that he wanted to be a crew on. He did draw other things too like a girl he had a crush on. He had a fondness for the couple. The couple garnered curiousity of the locals and young Thomas slowly unfolds the mystery in the book. I also liked the book mostly for the work that people were engaged in like the Highland girls who come down to gut fish; how skilled and graceful they were in carrying out the task, Thomas’s mum who stoically managed the household and the inn despite having an abusive husband.
Books about rural life appeals to me and I especially like it when it’s described in careful details. I feel that rural life is the soul of any country and you haven’t trully visited a place if you haven’t visited it’s rural places or country side. All in all I think that this book was okay, it requires patience. It’s not of high action and there are no great twists. It’s not exciting but mellow and it does feel like how life would be beside the sea. Life is influenced by the sea breeze and it dominates the pace of everything. The pace of life being like how the story in this book unfolded, very slowly yet beautifully. So yes, that’s my reading experience while reading this book, sorry if it may lack much enthusiasm but then this book does not create any room for that and I didn’t find it memorable. I wasn’t sad that the book had ended but I am proud to have had the patience to finish it.