Time to catch up on some reviewing I think! I was really looking forward to reading Margot & Me – I love Juno Dawson, who is an all round fantastic woman, and I had a lovely chat with her about the book last year at an event – and while it took me a little while to get into, it didn’t disappoint in the end.
Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . .
Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales – the grandmother who she doesn’t get on with – with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that’s the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss’s every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!
In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot’s diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot’s deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with…
Margot & Me is set primarily in the late 1990s where we meet Fliss, her mother and her grandmother, Margot. It is not a spoiler to say that Fliss and Margot do not get on. Fliss has been used to doing pretty much what she wanted while she was caring for her mum, and she doesn’t like Margot imposing rules. I must admit, Fliss comes across as something of a spoiled brat in the early pages, and I did find it hard to connect with her at first, but as I got further through the book, I found her more sympathetic. (I also suspect I was being a bit mean – I’m not sure how well I’d have taken to being uprooted from my city life and moved into an isolated Welsh farmhouse at 16 to be honest!) By about a quarter into the book, I liked Fliss a lot. I liked 1940s Margot a lot more though. She is such a fantastic character. Her diary starts as she is evacuated to Wales, and through it we see her change from a slightly cosseted teenager into a capable, forthright young woman, who’s not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, and who has some very progressive views for the 1940s. I really liked that we got to know this person at the same time as Fliss had her eyes opened to her grandmother’s true self and it was the 1940s scenes that made this book for me.
I always love books that cover a split period, whether that’s through time-travel or, like this, a window into an older time, and Margot & Me was no exception. It was also funny and moving and there may have been tears at certain points. The strength of this book as its characters though, and I’m very glad I got to meet Fliss and Margot.