PRAISE FOR LYNN FREED
"Freed wonderfully carries off that hardest of all literary effects-it feels effortless and therefore absolutely real."-Elle
"I'd say it's feminist fiction in the mode of Flaubert and Daniel Defoe."-All Things Considered, NPR
As these stories amply illustrate, [Freed] is, rather, one whose style and preferred subject are eminently well matched, whose spare, classic prose exposes hidden acts while pointing obliquely at hidden thoughts. Like any successful star, she knows her strengths and how to employ them; and at her best -- as in Under the House -- she is truly fine indeed.
The New York Times
With razor-sharp prose that recalls Jean Rhys in its intensity and with a preference for the dreamy eroticism favored by Marguerite Duras, South African novelist Lynn Freed proves yet again that she is expertly equipped to dissect the defiant longings and treacherous pleasures of the daughters and mothers, lovers and adventurers whom she imagines in her fiction.
The Washington Post
Women's relationships with their mothers, their lovers, their culture and their own sexuality are the subject of the 14 stories (written over nearly 20 years) in this fine collection. Freed, the author of five novels (The Mirror; House of Women; etc.), creates achingly real women and lovingly rendered misfits, and she reports straightforwardly and without judgment on their unconventional urges and questionable decisions. "Under the House" recounts a young girl's first sexual encounter with a traveling knife sharpener in the crawl space under her house and her subsequent memories of what should have been a traumatic event for her but was in fact something much more ambiguous. "The Widow's Daughter" tells of a young woman, possibly abused as a child, discovering and then flaunting her sexual power, much to her mother's horror. In the affecting title story, a middle-aged woman ponders how "half a lifetime of appropriate men can leave a woman parched for adventure." She dates two eccentric men but, finding herself still longing for the exotic, travels to Asia. On her way back, she meets a friend who's taken the opposite tack, marrying for convenience ("Quite acceptable, once you get over the death of the heart"). A few of these stories are schematic in their briefness, but most are quietly devastating and deeply resonant. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at William Morris. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A witty, accomplished debut collection from the South African-born novelist (House of Women, 2002, etc.). Beginning with "Under the House," the taut tale of a first sexual experience that ends in violence and retribution-and becomes the erotic cornerstone of a woman's life-these impeccably written stories detail the complicated pull of sexuality, power, and love. The title story puts a wicked twist on the ludicrous possibilities of dating for a woman who's "parched for adventure" after dating only "appropriate men." Enter a bearded Bavarian "in the seventeenth year of his doctoral dissertation" on "ecology and Chinese" (he also plays cello on the street and teaches archery at a community college). This man invites the narrator to dinner-and serves squirrel. His improvised kitchen hovers above the floor on a system of ropes and pulleys that also hold his cello, a music-stand, and a chair ("He reaches for a winch and winds down the toaster oven, which makes a neat four-point landing on the ledge"). Bachelor Number Two is an unpublished and impoverished Irish writer working on his sixth novel. He brings the woman flowers and will dine off nothing but china, though bought at a secondhand store. Story's end, which comes a bit quickly, is as pointed as its characterizations. In "The First Rule of Happiness," Antonia, her elderly mother, and her current lover, Thomas, vacation together in a gruesome love triangle. Thomas astutely sees that "she counted on him to understand that her mother's happiness ruled her life" and that "mother and daughter were held together in a sort of grip of need-one to give, the other to snatch for herself." By the end, that need is out in the open. Severalpieces-like "Selina Comes to the City" and "William"-are knowing explorations of master-servant relationships in South Africa, while a young girl in "Songbird" learns that a Holocaust survivor's story-that her singing kept her alive-isn't true. Fourteen sophisticated treasures.