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Book Review: I Couldn't Love You More

I Couldnt Love You More

I have to say first off that I am a big Esther Freud fan and am fairly certain that I have read all of her books. Freud is a spare, elegant writer who manages to evoke atmosphere, drama as well as emotion in the characters she creates. Sometimes she writes about her own experiences, such as in her debut, Hideous Kinky, which describes her experiences with her sister as young children when their hippie mother took them to Morocco. Or Lucky Break, about budding actors at drama school. Freud is a former actress.

She often seems to write about artists – Freud’s father was the artist Lucien Freud – including her more recent book Mr Mac and Me, which is set during World War I. The new book also features an artist and teacher, Kate who, now a mother herself, wants to find her birth mother, but with her marriage failing, she is emotionally fragile.

Woven into Kate’s story is that of Rosaleen, who as a young girl falls pregnant to her older lover, a London sculptor, who is already married. Desperate and alone she turns to a convent in Cork, near her parents’ home, where she secretly gives birth and has her child taken from her.

The story follows the three women involved across different time frames: Kate, Rosaleen and Rosaleen’s mother Aiofe, who has lost touch with her daughter and knows nothing about Kate. It comes together to create a moving and at times harrowing picture of adoption in the 1960s, of motherhood, secrets and the ties that bind. Again, the writing is atmospheric, crafted, and maybe because of the artistic aspects, visually immediate.

If you haven’t tried Esther Freud before, I Couldn’t Love You More is a good place to start, but check out her backlist too. In my book, she rarely puts a foot wrong.

20 October 2021

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