Novel of the week: I Couldn’t Love You More by Esther Freud
A finely crafted ‘what if?’ novel
Photo by Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images
“The glamorous unreliability of Esther Freud’s father, Lucian Freud, is an inescapable force in her novels,” said Markie Robson-Scott on The Arts Desk. Her ninth is a “what if?” exploration of her parents’ relationship: what if her teenage mother, pregnant by the older artist in the 1960s, had had to return home to Ireland to give birth in a hellish home run by nuns?
Rosaleen is the stand-in for her mother, Bernardine Coverley, while Felix Lichtman is the Freud figure, haunting the French pub and ordering oysters in Soho restaurants. The timeline is not always clear, but Freud brings it to life with her “customary skill” and touches of dark humour.
This is a finely crafted novel of “three generations of women: the men they love and the choices they make”, said Ella Risbridger in The Guardian. “Tender, carefully drawn images reverberate.”
Freud’s “darting, impressionistic” prose is full of riches, said Claire Allfree in The Times. She makes the most of details others neglect. Hitting the sweet spot between commercial and literary fiction, her novels are “invariably” a joy to read.
Bloomsbury 368pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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