Esther Freud New Book on Motherhood and Love

I remember reading Hideous Kinky shortly after its release and re-watching the Film when I returned from Morocco, hoping to relive our journey, although it is very different from that of Esther Freud’s novel, based on her own childhood experiences. I also had your recent novel, Mr. Mac and me, Comrades, which was reviewed in 2014 and had me read I Couldn’t Love You More, which spans three generations of women, each with the other.It it would be better – it was clear to the nuns-to keep the details of their lives to themselves.

Aoife plans to leave the family farm as soon as possible, take the ferry and travel to London, where she becomes a window decorator. There she falls in love with Cashel, who longs to return to Ireland and saves enough to run the Brixton Pub, which they take over to buy a farm there. Her eldest daughter follows in her mother’s footsteps, returns to London as soon as she can and, much to Aoife’s delight, gets a job at The Daily Express, although Rosaleen does not tell her that it is at the post office.

Her work can be boring, but Rosaleen gets into an affair with Felix, a sculptor she meets in a Soho Pub, who takes her into a flat in Maida Vale. Felix seems happy when she announces her pregnancy, but events take a turn that leaves her desperate and alone. She does what so many Irish Catholic girls have done for her and turns to the church, which is welcomed by nuns in a mother-child home, without saying what is happening to her daughter. In the 90s, Kate struggles with her husband’s alcoholism, he takes care of six-year-old Freya and longs for her biological mother.

As always, I’m not sure about whom I should be sad about, Freud’s story is too familiar, but she manages it beautifully, intertwining the strands of the three women’s stories and telling Kate with her own voice that gives her both directness and sharpness. Aoife remains haunted by Rosaleen’s disappearance, dismissed by Cashel as a “rage from the beginning”, her determination and spirit mirroring that of her mother. Rosaleen’s story is set in the context of bohemian London of the 60s in stark contrast to the draconian rules of the convent where she is, the nuns almost seem to profit from the misery of single mothers who want to shame her. Kate’s constant observations about women who might be her mother bring the pain home, not quite knowing who she is, as she becomes wary of hurting her adoptive parents. So much sadness and nostalgia are woven through this story of loss, grief and motherhood, that I exceptionally longed for a happy ending and that Freud creates the good, offers the prospect of hope and reconciliation, while remaining saccharine-clean.

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