Author Archives: michaelcatanzaro



From early on, Lynn Freed had imagined for herself an ideal life: a stranger in a strange place – someone just arrived, just about to leave, and always with somewhere to go home to. As a teenager on an exchange program from South Africa to the U.S., she made up fantastic reasons to escape high school in the suburbs and spend her time in New York City. But then back in New York a few years later – married now, and a graduate student – she found herself at home neither in the place nor in the marriage.

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Three self-proclaimed “old bags” run off to a Greek island to escape their children and grandchildren.

At first, barefoot and contented, they think they’ve rediscovered the wheel. But then things begin to go awry. Dionysus, a local poet, takes up with Bess, at least until his wife gets wind of things. Dania, a therapist, is being stalked by one of her patients. And Ruth’s ex-lover turns up out of the blue, closely followed by the man who lost Bess her fortune. It doesn’t help when the children and grandchildren also start turning up whenever they feel like it. As Bess writes in one of Ruth’s weekly “Granny à Go Go” columns, this is not an Enchanted April sort of year.

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This complex and sophisticated love story evokes a vanishing world of privilege with a Pygmalion twist. Haunted by phantoms of the Second World War and the Holocaust, young Cressida lives in terror of George Harding, who, severely disfigured, has returned from the front to recover in his family’s stately African home. When he plucks young Cressida’s beautiful mother and her family from financial ruin, establishing them in the old servants’ quarter of his estate, Cressida is swept into a future inexorably bound to his.

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Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

Lynn Freed has been widely praised as one of most fearless and sophisticated explorers of sexual and filial love. These fourteen short stories, written over the past ten years but never before collected, are vintage Freed. They deal with the struggle between mothers and their wayward daughters, with the often preposterous bonds that tie men and women together, and with the complex games that masters and servants play. In spare, elegant prose, Ms. Freed delivers surprise after surprise as she shakes the truth from life. Whether she is portraying a mother mired in senile dementia in “Ma, A Memoir,” a young girl experiencing her first sexual encounter with an itinerant knife sharpener in “Under the House,” or a young woman incapable of loving conventionally in “An Error of Desire,” Freed portrays the absurdity, the delusions, the dramas and the dignity of her characters’ lives.

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Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

House of Women is the story of three unusual women – seventeen-year-old Thea, her mother Nalia, an opera singer and Holocaust survivor, and Maude, their dour and religious housekeeper. It is the story of how the world changes for each of them when a man comes to take Thea away.

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This is the story of Agnes La Grange, a beautiful young woman who emigrates as a housekeeper to South Africa in 1920. With a determination to make a future of her own and a love of men that does not leave her in desperate need of them, Agnes constructs a life beyond the conventions of colonial society. Written in her own fresh and unguarded voice, The Mirror is a fictional memoire, telling the story of the essential female, what she must do to survive, and how little the cost has changed over time.

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In 1975, Ruth Frank, married and living in the United States, returns to South Africa to visit her aging parents. There she resumes an old liaison with Hugh Stillington, liberal man of Africa, who lives in a bungalow overlooking the Indian Ocean. Hugh’s world is a South Africa Ruth has never known — lush, wild, comfortably dilapidated, socially and politically courageous. Intoxicated, she begins to feel at home there, setting herself beyond the pale of her own society, and in the way of danger.

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Set in South Africa in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, this is the story of Ruth, youngest of three daughters in the flamboyant, theatrical Frank family. Brash, clear-eyed and passionate, Ruth moves through a decade of drama on every front — the family, the servants, the theatre, and the country at large—wondering always how she will escape into the “real world” at last.

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At thirty-six, Marion Roth is settled, uneasily, into a life of middle class order—a house on a good street, a career and family in place. And then she meets José, her natural opposite. He is sensual, artistic, impulsive, desirable, and also, unfortunately, the object of her daughter’s teenage passion. Following her impulses, Marion swerves off course and into a future that surprises everyone, most particularly herself.

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