Magazine article The Spectator

Too Much in the Sun

Magazine article The Spectator

Too Much in the Sun

Article excerpt

LOVE FALLS by Esther Freud Bloomsbury, £12.99, pp. 279, ISBN 9780747586968 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Reading this languid, chapterless novel is like spending the summer in Tuscany. The plot drifts along, punctuated by a few sharp shocks, just as a day at the villa might combine exquisite lethargy with a brisk dip in the pool or sumptuous meals.

Sometimes there's an obvious sting in the tail for such indolence: the cost, the sunburn, the extra calories consumed. In Esther Freud's latest, set in the Tuscan hills, the sting is more subtle, less conclusive: avoiding responsibility can have consequences.

Lara is invited by her historian father Lambert to stay a few weeks at the villa of an old friend. Even though Lara is now 17, she has spent little time in Lambert's company. For most of the book she remains gawky around him. The accidental touch of his feet revolts her, although by the end of the novel such things faze her less.

Partly this is due to her sexual awakening at the hands of Kip Willoughby, who is staying with his family in a neighbouring villa (more a converted village), and whom Lara finds compellingly familiar.

Anyone who has read Freud's first novel, Hideous Kinky, will know how superbly she captures the thrills and frustrations of childhood. Fast forward a few years, and Lara is the essence of early 1980s adolescence, a bundle of hormones, naivety and impulsive bravado, at once opinionated (she detests Lady Di's pre-wedding hair-cut) and tongue-tied. …

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