Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud

mr.mac and me by Esther FreudAs you may have noticed, historical fiction based on real people’s lives is a bit of a thing for me at the moment. That’s why i turned to Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud. Before moving to Scotland I’m not sure if a novel about architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh would have interested me, but here is Scotland, Glasgow in particular, he is a bit of a hero.

I didn’t know anything about the novel before digging in, so I must say it came as a bit of disappointment to me that the bulk of Mr. Mac and Me is more about the titular Me than Mr. Mac. I was hoping for an entertaining overview of Mackintosh’s life, instead I was given a glimpse into Macintosh’s brief escape to the Southeast coast of England right around the time of the outbreak of World War One.

In spite of the fact that most of the story revolves around Tom Maggs and the travails of his impoverished family, I did learn some startling things about CRM.

  • As much as he is revered today in Scotland, he was not all that successful during his own lifetime. This struggleMMM is made clear in Mr. Mac and Me.
  • The tall, stylized women I have always associated with CRM are, in fact, by his wife, Margaret MacDonald Macintosh.
  • CRM was thought to be a spy during WWI and was rather harassed for it.

Who would like this book? Though fans of CRM may like this book, I would be more inclined to recommend it to those who are looking for an English pastoral novel set in the 1910s. As I mentioned, Mr Mac is really a secondary character and the novel’s heart lies with Maggs family and their village pub.


  1. I’m glad you illustrated your review with the hardback jacket rather than the paperback, Tanya. It’s not nealy as lovely as that beautiful frtillary. I think I enjoyed this more than you but it seems we were both struck by the way in which Charles Rennie Mackintoch is remembered much more than his wife. I hadn’t realised what an accomplished artist she was in her own right.

  2. While this was a slow-moving book, I really enjoyed this portrayal of a coastal town in England during WWI, and I also learned more about Mackintosh’s art and his life. Like you I became a fan after I traveled to Scotland, and I was happy the book covered both his art and his wife’s. I actually liked that he wasn’t the main character, since you’re seeing his art through someone else’s eyes.

  3. I love historical fiction, but I’ve read very little with a real person at the heart of the story. I like the idea of books like that, but often feel as though I don’t know enough or am not excited enough about the person who features in the story. I might have to try picking up one of these up in conjunction with some nonfiction about the same person 🙂

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