Freed (Reading, Writing and Leaving Home, 2005, etc.) explores the growing awareness of an independent-minded girl stranded between two eccentric families during the years following World War II.
Occasionally reminiscent of classic Victorian fiction, this social drama with farcical interludes takes place in South Africa’s class- and money-divided white sector. Narrated by precocious and rebellious Cressida, it traces her family’s financial struggles after her father is rendered comatose by a blow to the head from a golf club. Wealthy neighbor George Harding, a horribly disfigured veteran, invites them to move into his servants’ quarters, despite gossip that his brother might in fact be Cressida’s father. George takes an interest in not-quite-ten-year-old Cressida, urging her to impart some of her daring to his nephew Edgar, the weak, orphaned boy also staying there. Sexuality intrudes later, after her father dies and her mother Muriel marries the common but rich Mr. Ledson. Enraged by Muriel’s flirtatiousness at a party, he violently kisses 15-year-old Cressida. Her disgust for her mother’s promiscuity intensifies; aching for adulthood and freedom, she moves back in with the Hardings. Attraction develops between her and George, but then Cressida sleeps with her tutor. She fears that she is turning into her mother and has lost George, but her involvement with the older man is not finished. Cressida, forever passionate and willful, will end up making her own choices in Freed’s literate tale of skewed romance.
Bright, brittle, fierce and written with verve.