Three books we’ve read and loved recently
I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud
We were thrilled to get our hands on the latest from Esther Freud, author of the cult favourite Hideous Kinky. It’s been seven years since her last novel and she always provides dreamy locations, vulnerable characters, unusual family dynamics and often a passionate and complicated artist or two (her father is the painter, Lucian Freud). I Couldn’t Love You More is loosely based on her own mother’s experiences in Catholic Institutions for pregnant, unwed women in 1960s Ireland.
Kate is adopted and she travels to a convent with her own daughter, Freya, to try to find her birth mother. There is a pragmatic sadness to Kate, and deep tragedy in the interwoven stories of her mother Rosaleen and grandmother Aoife; but the sorrow in these women’s lives is offset by the idea of both making and making-do. None of the women surrender to the past, but instead strive to create and connect. As Ella Risbridger says in her review in The Guardian, “We know we’re alive because of the stories we tell each other, and the things we make, and the people we love”. A beautiful book for lovers of the happy-sad in life.
Lives Like Mine by Eva Verde
Lives Like Mine begins with the classic tale of a school-gate affair. Unhappy mother-of-three, Monica meets Joe, a friendly and flirtatious parent. But Monica is a dual-heritage Englishwoman living in a prosperous, conservative village. She is regularly singled out for her race and skin-colour, as are her children. She is tired of the blatant intolerance from her in-laws, and even more tired of her husband’s refusal to speak out against them. Her relationship with Joe becomes the catalyst for her to act-out from the role she has found herself boxed into and she confronts lies from her past, her own feelings about race and what it means to “fit in” as a black woman, a mother, and as a wife. It’s a combination of smart and sexy and is the kind of book we’re always hungry for, a great story with an original edge.
The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar
The Mother Wound, which Bri Lee has described as one of the most important books she has ever read, is a memoir by Arab-Australian lawyer Amani Haydar who suffered "the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Five months pregnant at the time, her own perception of how she wanted to mother (and how she had mothered) was shaped by this devastating murder".
Extremely well-researched and exquisitely written, The Mother Wound asks questions not only about domestic violence but about war, feminism, grief, the patriarchy, intergenerational trauma, familial and cultural context, and the legal system. It's an astonishing feat how well Haydar can write the political amidst her traumatic personal (Jess Hill described this skill as writing with "a daughter's heart and a lawyer's mind"), and we wholeheartedly agree with Bri Lee and urge everyone to read it!