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Esther Freud

The Wild (Hamish Hamilton £l4.99) Esther Freud hails from the kind of colourful background that most writers would commit murder for. There’s also the small matter of her famous name to her advantage, an aesthetic trademark of pure gold, and a family album bursting with portraits of distinguished figures. With painter Lucien for a father and the pioneer of modern psychology

E for a great-grandfather, Freud's

pedigree is as controversial as it is influential.

Like most discerning authors, Freud has never recoiled from mining her unique upbringing and life experiences for the sake of a good yarn. In the mid-60$, she and her sister (fashion designer Bella) were whisked off to Marrakesh by their free-spirited mother, an experience recounted in Esther’s feted debut Hideous Kinky. This enchanting, quietly disturbing novel featured an entirely convincing child’s-eye view of her mother's absurd adult world.

So, as a writer, presumably Freud is now grateful to her childhood for providing rich fodder for her work.

'l have to restrain myself from giving too much away about my family'

’Yes I am,’ she laughs. ’I was aware at the time of it being different. You become slightly self-conscious about it, but so much happened and I am so grateful to be able to use that now.’ Freud is also refreshingly up- front about the critical fascination with her family. ’lt's difficult because I’m very interested in family and I sometimes have to restrain myself from giving too much away about my own.’

She admits, however, that her sister reacted with ’great warmth’ to her portrayal in Hideous Kinky. Freud’s latest novel, The Wild, focuses on nine-year-old Tess, lost in the middle of an ever-growing stepfamily, struggling to make her voice heard above the noise of her siblings and battling for recognition from her mother's vain, immature boyfriend, William. Through Tess and William, Freud deftly explores issues of love and petty power. Childhood innocence and imagination

are persuasively conveyed yet there’s a sustained threat of darkness lurking just beneath the veneer of understated humour.

‘I like a large sense of suspense,’ agrees Freud. ‘I don’t like writing or reading plot-driven books.’ The Wild provides further evidence of Freud's strong visual sense and her talent for observation. But it might never have happened, as the author originally trained as an actress. Her love affair with that profession is over, though she did recently lend her voice to the Hideous Kinky audiobook. So what skills, if any, has she brought to writing from acting? ’l was trained as a method actress, so quite a lot,’ she confesses. 'I would spin out great long histories for a character which were often better than the performance itself. Clearly, I was pushing myself in a different direction.’ (Allan Radcliffe) I The Wild is pub/ished on Thu 7 Jun.

Shameless PR ex creative confessional?


Martin Amis

Experience (Cape £18)

In the heyday of This Is Your Life, the nation feverishly awaited the Wednesday experience of a well- deserVIng indiwdual looking astonished as Eamonn Andrews thrust the big red book into their hands.

By the time Michael Aspel took the reins, people were being told the story of their lives when it was barely halfway through. So, what makes a writer deCIde that at the age of 51 it is time to bestow upon us the Wisdom he has garnered from his days on earth.

The cynical may conclude that Martin Amis has run out of steam, so what better way to fill the gap and line the pockets than to pen a few memories, slap some nice family shots down and have a go at old mates who have rubbed you up the wrong way? Then

there is the fact that Amis may feel he has to get the public back on his side. After a glorious run of form ever since his 1973 debut The Rachel Papers and through to 1989’s London Fields, the followmg decade was something of a PR calamity. There was the controversy over his attempts to rewrite history and play god (Time’s Arrow) and allegations of producing the inconsequentially flimsy (Night Train and Heavy Water). But worst of all, his mid-90$ project The Information was overshadowed by his dental bills. Still, we should perhaps be grateful that one of our most ferOCiously creative talents is still churning out thought~provoking words. Even if he is terribly beastly towards that nice Julian Barnes. (Brian Donaldson) l Experience is published on Thu 25 May.

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Maggie Graham

Who she? Maggie Graham was born in Ayrshire in 1953. She failed her eleven- plus and left school at fifteen, then worked in various factories, before marrying and having three children. She later returned to education, eventually gaining a degree in English Literature from the UniverSity of Glasgow. Since then she has worked on community writing programmes and had her work published in various

_ journals and anthologies. Most

recently, she’s been announced as the Winner of the 2000 Robert Louis Stevenson Award.

Her debut It’s called Sitting Among The Eskimos and tells the tale of mature student Lizzie Burns. Juggling the demands of her final year at university With those of her resentful husband and rowdy children, it doesn’t help that most of the inhabitants of the small seaSide town where she lives think she's 'no’ right in the heid’ for wanting an education. The novel bUlIdS to the first finals exam and, although the marriage crumbles, Lizzie, supported by a community of colourful friends, proves herself to be made of sterner stuff.

Basically . . . BaSically, it’s a modern day Educating Rita, written from a semi-autobiographical viewpoint. Graham writes in a bold, colloqwal style that harnesses a natural Wit and a finesse for storytelling.

First paragraph test ’This is the time of year when the district reSOunds With the sound of popping hymens. There's no danger of me adding to the cacophony; mine popped a long time ago. Anyway, mature students don't have time for bedsit passion.’ (Catherine Bromley)

I Sitting Among The Eskimos is published by Review on Thu 8 Jun

I priced f 9. 99. Maggie Graham will be

appearing at Waterstone’s, G/asgow on Thu 75 Jun.


'Shc's new. lor real. and she's good’

25 Mayw8 Jun 2000 THE “ST 109