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HIDEOUS KINKY by Esther Freud

HIDEOUS KINKY

By Esther Freud

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-15-140216-7
Publisher: Harcourt

 A young English child recounts travels and a lengthy sojourn in North Africa with her freedom-loving mother and security-seeking older sister--in the fiction debut of a London-born actress. The narrator--who turns five during the novel--has been born into such chaos that she takes it for granted. (The book's title comes from the only words spoken by the mentally and physically declining wife of one of Mum's boyfriends; unaware of the woman's suffering, the narrator and sister Bea turn Hideous! Kinky! into magic words for a game of tag.) In Morocco, the girls make friends with beggars, run about barefoot, dirty, and caftan-clad; they also eat hashish candy, live with the poor, have henna hair treatments from prostitute neighbors, travel with Bilal--the street entertainer who becomes Mum's lover--and go to Algeria (Bea refuses, so Mum simply leaves her behind) to seek Sufi wisdom. Throughout here, Mum repeatedly puts her family at risk--but without worse consequence than Bea seeking stability with a missionary and the narrator hoping Bilal will be her real father; the adventure therefore ends up seeming rather benign. The narrative seems too detailed, logical, and rich in cultural information to come from a five-year-old, while the more credible lack of perspective blunts any real understanding of the impact on the child. The potential tension between the girl's matter-of-fact account and the reader's presumed alarm rarely materializes. Best as travelogue: a fluently written inside view of Morocco.