Sunday, June 13

Esther Freud: ‘I didn’t learn to read until I was 10 years old’ | Fiction


Esther freud He is the author of nine novels, including Horrible pervert, his semi-autobiographical debut, which chronicles his unconventional childhood in Morocco. Daughter of Lucien Freud and Bernardine Coverley, she trained as an actress before becoming a novelist. Freud has three children with actor David Morrissey, from whom he recently separated. I couldn’t love you more it is the story of three generations of Irish women: Rosaleen, a heroic and headstrong teenager from the early 1960s who begins an affair with an older man; Aoife, her mother, who tells her dying husband about her life and wonders what happened to her frivolous daughter; and Kate, in London, married to the useless Matt, trying to succeed as an artist while taking care of their daughter, Freya. The three lives intertwine and overlap throughout the novel.

You say in recognitionsay what I couldn’t love you more He was inspired by his own mother, raising unmarried children and without the support of her family.
I did not begin the book with the intention of telling that story. I was thinking how much I would like to write a book where love was the main theme. So I started with a real surge of energy, writing about it from different points of view, three women from different generations. I started in a very playful and free way, writing these short chapters. After a while I realized that I needed a story and some kind of plot, and that’s when it occurred to me to think more about my mother and how extraordinary it was that she managed to have two children without their parents knowing. , and what it was. it was like being in a world without support.

I started to think more about the way I was raised and the way my grandparents lived, why they were ruled by them. They were Catholics, they had moved to Ireland when my mother was a teenager and the church was incredibly powerful to them. So I started investigating the life of a young woman in the 1960s against this backdrop, and the whole project started on a very different trajectory.

Kate’s relationship with her daughter is very close and yet somewhat strained. Are you looking for warmth in your daughter that you cannot get from her husband?
I wanted to show in Freya something that I have seen in so many women of my own generation: this overinvestment in children, so being a perfect mother turns into a kind of frenzy. It leads to a kind of exhaustion and neuroticism. It seems to me that women have become almost eager to shed their relationships with the men in their lives and invest everything in this all-consuming love for their children. It’s not something my mother’s generation would have recognized at all.

Rosaleen is only 17 when she begins an affair with a man twice her age. We live in an age hypersensitive to such imbalances of power. Was it difficult to write about this?
I started this book five years ago, so it wasn’t a problem then. However, I feel like I am truly dedicated to telling human stories. Love is something I talk about with my children, that I am not, in theory, against people of different ages falling in love. Because she was writing to Rosaleen from her point of view, she didn’t see that there was a problem that the man she was in love with was 20 years older than her. I believe that as long as it is legal and consensual, people should be able to love whoever they want. And the age difference between Rosaleen and Felix was the least of their problems.

You have two artists, one male and one female, and we are invited to compare them …
I think you have to completely lose yourself to excel as a visual artist. This is why, historically, there have been relatively few great female artists. You have to give a lot of yourself. I wanted to explore that in the book with a male and female artist. One of them has to stop working at three to pick up his son; one does not.

How did you get through the confinement?
This most recent blockade I didn’t feel quite ready for a new novel, so I started writing short stories. I was very lucky to be offered the empty house of writer Tracy Chevalier when I was away. There were many people in my house; my boyfriend moved during the first confinement. He is a writer and speaker and used to give seminars to 200 people on Zoom. My daughter had a business upstairs. My son was studying at home. The dogs were barking. So it was wonderful and thrifty to walk around the corner of an empty house and write stories.

What books are on your nightstand?
Right now I am reading two books. One is Frost by Juliet Nicolson. It’s so, so good. It’s about the winter I was born in. I kept thinking about my mother during that time. Not only did she face the difficulties of being isolated and disapproved of as a single mother, but it snowed for 10 weeks. I’m also reading Gwendoline Riley My ghosts which is sharp and absolutely brilliant.

What novelist writing do you most admire today?
I’m always interested in seeing what Rachel Cusk writes.

How do you organize your books?
From memory. I’d love to say it alphabetically. That is my dream. But I’m just trying to remember where the books I want to find are.

What classic novel did you read for the first time recently?
I reread Middlemarch and it felt like it was the first time. I don’t think I understood it when I read it when I was a teenager.

What kind of reader were you as a child?
I didn’t learn to read until I was 10 years old. My mother read to me every night, which was wonderful. I was quite dyslexic, and I think quite distracted from having spent two years of my life in Morocco. My head was too full and I couldn’t seem to take in anything. When I was young and read to me, I particularly loved Laura Ingalls Wilder. Many years later, when I started writing, I thought of those books.

I couldn’t love you more by Esther Freud is published by Bloomsbury (£ 16.99). To support the guardian order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply


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