It has been ages since I read a book in manuscript form.
Its kind of fun.
There are no cover distractions, author bio’s or quotes from other well-known authors.
It’s all about the words on the page.
And the words that make up the story of Freya by Anthony Quinn are very well-chosen ones indeed.
Quinn gives us Freya’s coming of age story.
Freya worked as a Wren during WWII.
At the end of war celebrations she meets up with a young woman, Nancy, who becomes her best friend through all the trials and joys of the subsequent years at Oxford and in London as a journalist.
Quinn writes an easy-to-read, easy-to-believe friendship (despite a few writerly conveniences). There are allusions to Brideshead Revisited (especially in the Oxford scenes) and a big nod of homage to My Brilliant Friend.
Apparently there are some characters from Quinn’s previous novels in here, but having never read any of the others I was unaware of these connections until recently and it certainly didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the story.
This is old-fashioned story-telling at its best.
Quinn uses Freya to show us life in post-war England. We also explore broader world events and issues like the Nuremberg trials, women’s rights and the homosexual witch hunts of the 50’s through Freya’s eyes.
It’s not often that I yell at the pages of a book in frustration, but Quinn succeeded in getting me so riled up when Freya was unable to hold her tongue at a crucial point in the story. It was completely in character, but, oh so annoying. I nearly threw the book across the room.
I also enjoyed the numerous literary references throughout Freya – Waugh, Maugham, Austen, Henry James and Trollope – just to name a few. Books IN books certainly seems to be my thing this year.
And there were loads of Thelonious Monk jazz moments as well (I’ve included Freya’s favourite piece below) to keep us vibing along.
Freya would make a fabulous holiday read – an engrossing, page-turning story – easy enough to put down when it’s time for a dip in the pool and easy to pick up again when you’re done and the cocktails have arrived!