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I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud - Review

Friday, April 22, 2022

I was reading something and this book came up and I was intrigued, so I requested it at the library as I'm trying to not buy books at the moment. I actually got the notification that it had arrived while I was in the library at craft club, which I go to every Monday morning. That was useful because it meant I picked it up on my way out and didn't have to wait until the next week!

I will say at the start that I did enjoy this book but I do feel like I've read very similar before. It features a young woman who is unmarried and pregnant and who heads to one of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. Her story does differ to some because she voluntarily puts herself there, but she definitely doesn't understand exactly what she's signing up to; she doesn't know she'll have to stay for three years to pay off her "debt" of having been "cared for" by the nuns through her pregnancy. The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and the harm they inflicted is a massive scandal, and I'm glad that books do exist which detail the horror, but I've read quite a few and if I had realised that's where this book went, I might have swerved it. But I didn't, so I did read, and I did enjoy it. But I wil lstart with the caveat!

The book takes places in several different time periods. Firstly there's Aoife, who sometimes has first person narration and sometimes has third person narration, and who's husband, Cashel, is dying. The two met in London in the war, and got married and had a little girl, Rosaleen. Because of the war she was evacuated to Harrogate, where she was fostered. They pick her up towards the end of the war, when they have had another girl, Angela. They run a pub in the East End, but Aoife, who is Irish, somewhat dreams of returning home. They have another little girl, Kitty, and buy a farm in Ireland. The girls go to boarding school in England and Rosaleen always has somewhat of a chasm between herself and her parents. She disappeared from their lives shortly after Christmas around 1960 when she was nineteen. Aoife knows that Cash knows more about this than he's ever let on and she wants to get it out of him before he dies. 

Meanwhile, we're in the late fifties with Rosaleen, in London. She meets a man in a pub and starts an affair with him. He is an artist, a sculptor, and he introduces her to many of his bohemian friends. He lives in poverty and sometimes ignores her when he's trying to work. She finds herself pregnant and heads home for Christmas, concealing it. When she gets back, something happens that means she ends up in the convent. 

Then we're also in the early nineties with Kate. She is an artist and is married to Matt, a musician who is also an alcoholic. Their marriage is falling apart. They have a little girl, Freya. Kate knows she is adopted and sees her mother everywhere - in a woman at the station, in a homeless woman nearby, and so on. 

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