Love Falls [NOOK Book]


From the author of Hideous Kinky comes a charming, surprising, and utterly irresistible tale of adolescent love and self-discovery.

When seventeen-year-old Lara accepts her father's invitation to accom?pany him to a Tuscan villa for the summer, she's both thrilled and nervous for the exotic holiday. To her delight, she soon discovers that the villa's closest neighbors are the glamorous Willoughbys, the teenaged brood of a British millionaire. Caught up in their torrential thirst...

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Love Falls

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From the author of Hideous Kinky comes a charming, surprising, and utterly irresistible tale of adolescent love and self-discovery.

When seventeen-year-old Lara accepts her father's invitation to accom­pany him to a Tuscan villa for the summer, she's both thrilled and nervous for the exotic holiday. To her delight, she soon discovers that the villa's closest neighbors are the glamorous Willoughbys, the teenaged brood of a British millionaire. Caught up in their torrential thirst for amusement—and snared by Kip Willoughby's dark, flirtatious eyes—Lara sets off on a summer adven­ture full of danger, first love, and untold consequen­ces that will irrevocably change her life.

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Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Gilmore
It's the summer of 1981, a mere week before Diana Spencer and Prince Charles are to be married. Lara, just turned 17, is embarking on a trip from London to Tuscany with her scholarly, travel-phobic father, Lambert, whom she has seen only sporadically since her early childhood. They are off to stay with one of Lambert's oldest friends. The expectation is obvious: this girl will come to know her elusive father; she will break out from her troubled, tentative girlhood and become a confident woman. Will she find a fairy-tale love as well? While Esther Freud's sixth novel, Love Falls, follows this all-too-familiar arc, her depiction of Lara is so charming and observant, her writing so dynamic, that all the cliches of a youthful summer of self-discovery are transcended.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Freud, who is Sigmund Freud's great-granddaughter and Lucien Freud's daughter, echoes some of the autobiographical material that enlivened her debut and biggest success, Hideous Kinky, in this sixth novel. Lara, 17, is already a veteran of a transformative journey to the Far East with her mother as she sets out on a very different trip, from London to Italy with her reclusive father, Lambert. Lara's adolescent turns of mind, her changing relationship with "Lamb" and her utterly contradictory (and utterly human) desires to be both in the world and safe at home make for a surprising and convincing character study. But Freud's engaging, insightful writing is undermined by antique plot devices: is Lamb also the father of Kip Willoughby, the cute boy at the adjacent villa? Was Kip conceived in an act of sexual revenge? Did the Willoughbys' grandfather once renege on a promise to bring Lara's grandparents out of WWII Germany? Still, the soap-opera drama doesn't ruin the book: one wants to remain with Freud's lively voice and to see what Lara makes of it all. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Freud (Hideous Kinky; Peerless Flats) introduces 17-year-old Lara, who, on the eve of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, is invited by her father on an Italian vacation to visit the villa of his old friend. Raised by her Buddhist hippie mother, Lara had only infrequent contact with her emotionally remote father, and the invitation comes as a thrill. The Tuscan villa and its neighboring estates are worlds removed from Lara's shabby existence in England. First love finds her in the person of Kip, the son and heir of the neighboring villa, Ceccemoro. As the summer progresses, she is enveloped by his large extended family and soon becomes aware of the many sexual undercurrents around her. Lara gets swept up in these dramas as well as in the failing health of her hostess and the exciting preparations for the Palio, the centuries-old horse race that caps Siena's summer. A burnished glow suffuses this lovely novel about adult awakening. Enthusiastically recommended for public libraries.
—Barbara Love

Kirkus Reviews
In Freud's sixth book (The Sea House, 2004, etc.), 17-year-old Lara accompanies the father she barely knows to stay with his ailing friend Caroline at her Italian villa. It's summer 1981, and Lara-intimidated by the erudite, intensely private Lambert and left out of his reminiscences with their host-seeks the company of the neighbors, the Willoughbys, a big family of pleasure-seeking English aristocrats. Lara grows infatuated with Kip, a wastrel-in-waiting who retains a tinge of innocence, unlike his in-law, cretinous roue Roland, and unlike his notorious father, who squandered a fortune and has retreated to Italy to shelter its remnants and live unencumbered by his wife. What ensues is part travelogue, part coming-of-age romance, part teen Gothic (the mysterious rambling house, the leering Willoughby satyrs, the tangled "sexy path" through the trees-a stretch of which, in the back garden, is lined with stones shaped like genitals). Freud convincingly captures this adolescent's ways of thinking and speaking, and there are sharp minor characters, especially Caroline's cook, Ginny. But the story's arc is predictable. Sex good, followed by sex evil. Later Lambert injures himself in a moment of macho vainglory, and soon after, Caroline is rushed to the hospital. Their absence paves the way for Lara's erotic idyll with Kip, for an account of the Palio, the famed summer horserace in the Tuscan town of Siena (Caroline owns the winning mount), and for the revelation of secrets. Familiar characters and situations, smooth but lackluster prose and oversaturated local color. Agent: Georgia Garrett/AP Watt
The Barnes & Noble Review
Lara, the 17-year-old protagonist of Esther Freud's sixth novel, is named after the heroine of Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago. But the literary work that most immediately comes to mind while reading Love Falls is Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night. Not since that novel -- one of my all-time favorites -- have I read another that so convincingly evokes summertime as a tangible physical and psychological space where unlikely strangers mix promiscuously in unlikely places, where the participants themselves know so fully they are living in a golden time they are nostalgic for their current lives in the present tense.

Freud's novel is, if anything, wiser than Fitzgerald's, and certainly she has more faith that her characters will have more golden times past the end of the novel (we don't envision anyone riding off into alcoholic oblivion and crushed dreams ? la Dick Diver). But her cast of lords, ladies, film stars, and mere mortals summering in Tuscany in 1981 so closely resembles the same sorts that Fitzgerald plunked down on the French Riviera nearly a half century before that the comparison seems inevitable.

Lara, the mere mortal, is invited to Italy by her semi-estranged father, Lambert Gold (né Wolfgang Goldstein), who publishes widely (his attention to his work, a history of Britain in the 20th century, has precluded him from doing much parenting) and lives modestly. Her life with her nomadic mother, Cathy -- who raised her in a Tibetan center in Scotland, then took her on the Budget Bus to India in search of enlightenment, much as the single mother in Freud's semi-autobiographical first novel, Hideous Kinky schlepped her two daughters around Morocco -- has left her well traveled but unaccustomed to a life in which dinners are prepared by the cook, a person with whom those of the house must not get too friendly. While her father works on his magnum opus and Caroline, their brittle, glamorous host, nurses a mysterious illness, Lara takes shelter gossiping in the kitchen with Ginny, the cook, who becomes her summer confidante.

The lords are the Willoughbys, who live up the road in a compound that once housed countless families. Andrew, the patriarch, leaves his wife in London each year while he summers with their passel of teenage children and his longtime mistress, Pamela, known to the children as "the big P." The film star is his mistress's daughter, Lulu, a blonde with skin so bronzed "it looked like she had sat with a copper plate in her lap to reflect the sun." Lulu is smitten with Andrew's only son, 18-year-old Kip, who, at the age of 7, was named the new Lord Montague by his grandfather, displacing his feckless, free-spending, skirt-chasing father.

Much to her surprise, Lara is smitten with Kip as well, though her attraction to him is not for the most obvious reasons. Lara is the kind of girl who sees the summer's main pop culture event, the marriage between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, as more tragedy than fairy tale; when told by Ginny that the rich and attractive Kip is "the most eligible bachelor in town," she becomes "irritable" and realizes she had hoped "Kip's beauty might only be visible to her."

The entire Willoughby clan takes a shine to the bohemian Lara as well, dubbing her the Attractive Young Communist (after she lets it slip that she wants to grow up to teach adult literacy classes like her mother). Soon she is clattering around Italian clubs and cafes, underdressed in jeans, T-shirts, and high-heeled sandals, with Kip and his sister May, her fiancé, Piers, and Roland, whose aggressive flirtations become somewhat menacing, given that he is married to Kip's very pregnant sister, Tabitha.

Setting a novel in such an idyllic place and populating it with such gorgeous characters puts it in real danger of coasting on atmosphere alone. Freud most emphatically does not coast. Nor does she turn the story into an easy tale of the ordinary virtue of the working folk trumping the decadence of the idle rich. The casual snobbery of the gilded life is there, but it never overwhelms the story into caricature or class polemic. Instead, she allows glamour to coexist with fully realized characters experiencing true emotions and never insulates them from real-life consequences.

One of the reasons the novel works so well is the care Freud has taken with constructing Lara herself. This summer, for Lara, is about two romances: her sexual and emotional awakening with Kip, and building an adult relationship with a father who did not share her childhood. During a game of Truth, both her father and her future lover claim they have never fallen in love. Lara, on the other hand, thinks, "Of course she'd been in love. Her whole life had been lived out in degrees of adoration. What else was there to do?"

Lara's emotional confidence, one senses, comes from having been a well-loved child. Although her mother inhabits the novel only in flashback, Lara's affection and admiration for her is palpable. Lambert had never wanted to have children, but Cathy assures her daughter that this in itself makes her "special"; she has taught him to love anyway. As for Cathy, who bore Lara at 19, in the full knowledge that the then 41-year-old father would never be much help, Lara thinks "her mother proved just by having her that she was free and reckless and fierce."

Midway through the novel, Freud introduces three potentially groan-inducing plot twists, none of which would be fair to reveal here, and all of which would give her great-grandfather Sigmund plenty to discuss (her father is the painter Lucian Freud). Although they add suspense, I was worried that they might derail the narrative into melodrama. It is to Freud's credit that this does not happen. One of the three is more or less resolved, in a quiet way that reveals Lara's capacity to accept difficult truths. The other two are left dangling -- the consequences may or may not come back to haunt Lara in her life outside the boundaries of the novel, though both will certainly shape her thinking about how best to live it. By the end of the novel, however, we have such a sure sense of Lara's character that we can imagine she has the strength to deal gracefully with whatever comes next. --Amy Benfer

Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus, and The New York Times Book Review.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061979811
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,198,868
  • File size: 623 KB

Meet the Author

Esther Freud is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud. She trained as an actress before writing her first novel. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

Love Falls

Chapter One

'I don't know if I've ever mentioned my friend Caroline,' Lambert said as a thick white plate of kedgeree arrived at the table and was set down on the linen cloth in front of Lara, 'but I had a letter this morning, and . . .' He paused to acknowledge the arrival of his chops. 'It seems she's not at all well.'

'Oh. I mean, no. I don't think you have.' Lara stared down at the slivers of browned fish, the gold yolk of the egg, the parsley sticking to the rice. She wanted to start but it seemed rude. 'Is she very . . . ?'She never knew if you were allowed to mention age to people who were old. 'Is she . . .' She said it brightly. 'Very old?'

'Well. . .'Her father took up a sharp knife and cut into the meat. 'Not terribly. A few years more than me. Sixty-ish, maybe?' He sighed. 'Quite young.'

Lara nodded as she scooped up her first mouthful, the soft grains cinnamon- and clove-scented, the tiny seeds of caraway cracking between her teeth, and wondered when, if ever, she would think of sixty-ish as young.

'It made me wonder,' her father continued while the waiter poured tea, 'if I shouldn't visit. She's taken a house in Italy for the summer. She takes one every year, her late husband was Italian, and every year she invites me, but this time . this time I thought I actually might go.'

He looked down then, frowning, giving Lara a chance to observe him, see how this declaration was affecting him, a man who made it a point never to leave London, had not left it, as far as she knew, since before she was born. Why, she'd asked him once, do you never travel? And he'd shrugged and said why travel when you're already in thebest place there is?

For a while they ate in silence and then, still chewing, he fixed Lara with a look. 'Have you ever been?'


'To Italy.'

Lara shook her head. She'd been to India with her mother on a bus, through Belgium, Germany, Greece and Turkey, through Iran (although they'd called it Persia to make the days pass faster) into Afghanistan and across the Khyber Pass. She'd been to Scotland too, had lived there for seven years, so maybe that didn't count, but she'd never been to Italy.

He was still looking at her. 'I thought maybe you'd like to come.'

'With you?'

He nodded.

'Really? I mean yes. I would.'

They smiled at each other...a seal on their pact, and then spirals of alarm, of dread, of delirious excitement shot through her body with such force that her appetite disappeared and finishing her breakfast seemed suddenly as arduous a task as being asked to plough a field.

Lara's father, Lambert Gold, lived in a dark and thickly padded flat halfway up a wide, carpeted stairway. There was a small kitchen, a small sitting room, a large study, and a bedroom into which she'd only ever glanced, but which had a pale-green plant of such beauty growing up against one wall that it always surprised her, it seemed so out of keeping with the dark interior of the rest of the flat. Through the half-open door the heart-shaped leaves and twining stems seemed to be actually breathing, stretching towards the light, shivering very slightly in a breeze, the leaves always in spring colour, whatever time of year. This plant was the one thing that reminded her that Lambert had ever known her mother. She also had a plant, a lemon-scented geranium on a low table beside her bed, but unlike Lambert's...for which she didn't have a name...the geranium was forever changing, ageing, growing new shoots, darkening and lightening with the time of year. The stalk was gnarled and brown, the dead leaves dropped in a little curling pile on to the plate below, but when you rubbed against it a scent so rich and airy filled the room that it made you stop whatever you were doing, and breathe in.

Ever since she'd known her father, and it bothered Lara sometimes that she couldn't remember the day they'd met, he'd been writing a history of Britain in the twentieth century. Some sections of it had already been published, a fact he railed against, because each time this happened it meant his work schedule was disrupted by requests for articles, interviews, letters to which he must reply. There was a sense about him that he was warding off interruption, must really, ideally, never be disturbed, so that it meant the few people who did see him felt themselves to be the chosen, and every second spent in his time was a gift bestowed.

Lambert's real name was Wolfgang Goldstein. As a child he'd been known as Wolf, but he'd renamed himself three months after arriving in London, seeing his new name in print for the first time the day after his eighteenth birthdaywhen he'd written an angry letter to The Times, Why did you choose Lambert? Lara asked him, wondering what she would call herself if her own name...Lara Olgalissia Riley...ever became more of a burden that it was worth, and he said he chose Lambert because it was less threatening than Wolfgang but still related, a sort of private joke to himself. He'd come across it in the obituary pages of the newspaper, William Lambert 'Bertie' Percival, a colonel in the army who'd died peacefully in his sleep. What had his letter been about? She always forgot to ask him...and when she did remember the moment was never right.

Lambert was fifteen when he first came to England. He'd been sent out of Austria in the year before the war, the precious only son of his parents, and as if this was to be his fate, to be precious . . .

Love Falls. Copyright © by Esther Freud. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2008

    Love Falls

    I was really loking foward to reading this book and it just turned out to be so disappointing. It started out good but as the story went on it got worse. I think what made me mad about this book is the way it turned out. She went home and never told. For those of you who have read the book you know what I am talking about. It just seemed disappointing to me. For all of you who have read it and are planning to read it I hope you find it much more rewarding than I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A good storyline

    Seventeen years old Lara accompanied her mother as they toured the Far East together. Back at home in England, her dad Lambert invites her to come with him to Italy.-------------- Though a bit nervous as she has spent little time with dad, Lara jumps at the opportunity to spend time with her father as Lambert is a bit of a hermit. They spend the summer together in a Tuscan villa whose neighbors include a family of British millionaires with one Kip Willoughby being cute and her age. As Kip and Lara spend time together, she flirts outrageously with him until she begins to hear rumors that he is her half-brother. Did her father as an act of vengeance sire the lad to get back at his grandfather for deserting Lamb¿s parents during WWII in Germany? Or is just inane gossip?-------------------- When the story line focuses on Lara, the audience receives a deep fascinating character study as readers see her dad, her mom, the boy next door and others through her eyes. When the tale centers on Kip¿s parentage, it loses steam as it veers into overly melodramatic. Still following the escapades of the teen heroine is a charmer that will send the audience seeking other works from Esther Freud (see HIDEOUS KINKY not read by this reviewer).-------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    The book was ok at the beginning, but then became boring in the middle, and was ok again at the end. This review may sound dull, but to me, that's how the book went.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 8, 2009

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