THE BUNGALOW by Lynn Freed


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Freed here continues the story of Ruth Frank, begun in the excellent Home Ground (1986): Ruth's South African Jewish childhood now behind her, she has married lovelessly and returned from New York on a solo visit to see her parents after her father suffers a heart attack. Unhappy with her husband Clive (he's also South African and Jewish, now a biomedical researcher with no desire ever to return home), Ruth has found her parents older, seedier, more marginal than ever--but prone to the same passionate hatreds and desires that their theatrical life has encouraged over the years. She visits her sister and wealthy brother-in-law and sees them terribly uneasy with the decaying privilege they inhabit in a country fast becoming scary, unsafe, anarchic. In unconscious response to all this entropy, Ruth drifts back into the orbit of Hugh Stillington--her very first lover years before--an aristocratic, maimed liberal now living in a seaside bungalow that seems like the last outpost of grace, fervor, and ideals. Their affair recommences--and is cut short when Hugh is murdered, leaving Ruth pregnant and defiant: she'll stay on. Freed is a terrific writer--and in Ruth has an appealing character of alertness and sensitivity to exile and community--but there's not much dramatic tension here. As sharp as the portraiture is (Freed can write a crowd or party scene as well as anyone today), Ruth's chronicle of plight, decision, and process of reconsideration moves along at a slower, more deliberate pace than the quick-tempo prose does, and, ultimately, the effect is not a happy one. Still, Freed fans may not care especially, satisfied enough with the very humane, high-grade novelizing that's here.

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1993
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster