Monday, October 13, 2014

"Lucky Break," by Esther Freud

Being an author with a very famous name inherited from a very famous person or persons must be a mixed blessing, but it does initially get one noticed. When I was browsing and picked up a novel by Esther Freud, of course I immediately wondered about her possible relationship to Sigmund Freud. It turns out she is the great-granddaughter of the great psychoanalyst, as well as the daughter of the famed painter Lucian Freud. Another reason I picked up Freud’s novel “Lucky Break” (Bloomsbury, 2011) is that when wandering through bookstores during a recent European trip, I noticed that there were many books by British authors (beyond the most famous writers such as Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, A. S. Byatt, and Martin Amis) that don’t seem to make the trip across the Atlantic, or at least if they do, they do not get much publicity. I have always read the British classic novels, and have some favorite English and Irish authors (e.g., Penelope Lively, Margaret Drabble, Julian Barnes, Pat Barker, Alan Hollinghurst, Maggie O’Farrell, Ali Smith, Anne Enright). But the ones I have just alluded to are the less well known, at least in the U.S. So now I consciously look out for such novels. Getting back to “Lucky Break”: This is the story of a group of young people who all want to be actors, and who meet at drama school. The novel follows them into their thirties, telling of their artistic successes and failures, as well as their personal relationships. It is an ensemble novel, with four of the characters receiving the most attention from the author. It shows the difficulties of making a life in the arts, and some of the minor characters give up early on. However, apparently it is not the author’s aim to show true poverty or difficulty, in that all the characters somehow manage to maintain decently comfortable lives, albeit sometimes in less-than-ideal housing, and don’t seem to truly suffer. The characters are interesting, and their interactions are as well. There are suggestions of competition and jealousy, but these never become major themes. This is a pleasant, enjoyable, occasionally quirky, well-written novel, but not one I am likely to long remember.
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