PEERLESS FLATS by Esther Freud


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 Actress/second-novelist Freud (Hideous Kinky, 1992) returns with a limp tale of an acting student enduring poverty, a shattered family life, and postadolescent sexual confusion in a shabby backwater of modern-day London. Sixteen-year-old Lisa has been accepted into an acting course at a college in London's King's Cross, and her strident mother, Marguerite, and hyperactive younger half-brother, Max, have moved to London with her. Nearly penniless, the three manage to snag a one-bedroom apartment in Peerless Flats, one of London's temporary public-housing blocks, where they will stay until Marguerite can lobby her way into a permanent home. Meanwhile, Lisa hooks up with her older sister, Ruby, already a fully-enculturated Londoner with a heroin habit and a weakness for destructive boyfriends, and watches in awed admiration as Ruby passes in and out of rehab clinics virtually untouched, throws herself into an affair with a boy Lisa likes, and effortlessly teases cash and meals out of the girls' distracted, disappearing dad. Marguerite blames herself for having ruined Ruby with overly strict rules and curfews, and allows Lisa total independence--but listless Lisa has no idea what to do with her freedom, and when not dragging herself to absurdly irrelevant method-acting classes can only tag along as Marguerite attacks the housing authorities, a girlfriend arranges for a weekend of sex and drugs, or a potential boyfriend embarks on a drug-dealing foray. In the end, Marguerite finds a ramshackle house, and Lisa dimly perceives that a solid, predictable future may become possible again--but it's too late for the reader who, imprisoned in Lisa's unfocused, unexamined no-man's-land, has lost all hope of getting out. Sensitive, subtly humorous, and evocative of the underside of London life, but without the depth or resolution of a satisfying novel.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-171608-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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