This may be too much information for some people, but I spent ages wallowing in the bath yesterday as the next thing on my list was a visit to my local supermarket, which at this time of year could easily be one of the rings of hell in the Inferno and, when I finally got there, it was just as bad as expected… So I lay in the bath, procrastinating, topping up the hot water and reading this book.
From the Amazon listings it seems that this book is out of print at the moment, this copy came from my local Oxfam shop, and I don’t know why. Unlike Arthur and George (see posting below) Esther Freud’s characters are all three dimensional and very engaging so I was immediately drawn into their world, which is also beautifully described. The central character is a child, Tess, and I really felt that as I read I was inhabiting her skin and experiencing her pain as William, her pseudo stepfather, ignores her and exposes her embarrassing secret to the world. All the characters in this book are three-dimensional but Freud has also got under the skin of William, who, while not truly evil, is self-obsessed and selfish, seeing the world only in terms of his needs and inevitably causes pain and anguish to those who love him, including his own children. The world in this book is beautifully evoked and so painfully realistic that there were times when I felt that I wanted to shake Tess’s Mum, Francine, and ask her what the hell she was doing. I’m not sure why I haven’t read any Esther Freud before but I shall definitely be looking out for her other works and if they are half as good as this one I shall be happy.