Thomas Maggs is a lonely little boy. When Esther Freud's new novel Mr. Mac And Me opens, he is 13 years old. His brothers have died, his father, who runs a bar, drinks too much of his own stock and beats his son. Thomas dreams of sailing away – and then World War I descends on his small English sea coast town. Tours stop coming, blackout curtains go up, village boys enlist and go off to war.