'Freya', by Anthony Quinn - Review

By Wheldon, Wynn | The Spectator, March 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

'Freya', by Anthony Quinn - Review


Wheldon, Wynn, The Spectator


The name Freya is derived from the old Norse word for 'spouse', perhaps Odin's. As a goddess she is variously responsible for birth, death, war and beauty, which seems to cover a fairly wide range of human endeavour. It is a name befitting the ardent heroine of this old-fashioned novel with a distinctly contemporary bearing.

An initial irritation at the use of a literary pun (the first of the three parts of the book is called 'At Swim, Two Birds' for no very obvious reason) and a sprinkling of period props (powdered eggs always pop up in the late 1940s) soon gives way to the pleasurable anticipation of a long tale well told.

Anthony Quinn's previous novel, Curtain Call , was set in 1936, and one of its principal characters, Stephen Wyley, is the father of the eponymous heroine of this one. She has served as a Wren and finds the idea of studying at Oxford rather superfluous after fighting a war. Nevertheless, her friend, the young, naive and beautiful Nancy, is also going up, and so she is persuaded. Here they meet the three men who are to play significant roles in their lives: the theatrical dandy Nat Fane, the shy, mysterious Alex MacLeish and the ambitious, charming Robert Cosway.

Freya is divided into three parts, roughly eight years between each, and it is hard not to consume it as one might a TV box-set. Quinn's willingness fully to detail each of his scenes attests to his years as a film critic. The episodes follow one another in almost entirely chronological sequence. …

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