Freud, Esther Hideous Kinky: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780880016889

Hideous Kinky: A Novel

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9780880016889: Hideous Kinky: A Novel
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The debut novel from the author of Summer at Gaglow, called "a near-seamless meshing of family feeling, history and imagination" by the New York Times Book Review. Escaping gray London in 1972, a beautiful, determined mother takes her daughters, aged 5 and 7, to Morocco in search of adventure, a better life, and maybe love. Hideous Kinky follows two little English girls -- the five-year-old narrator and Bea, her seven-year-old sister -- as they struggle to establish some semblance of normal life on a trip to Morocco with their hippie mother, Julia. Once in Marrakech, Julia immerses herself in Sufism and her quest for personal fulfillment, while her daughters rebel -- the older by trying to recreate her English life, the younger by turning her hopes for a father on a most unlikely candidate.

Shocking and wonderful, Hideous Kinky is at once melancholy and hopeful. A remarkable debut novel from one of England's finest young writers, Hideous Kinky was inspired by the author's own experiences as a child. Esther Freud, daughter of the artist Lucian Freud and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, lived in Marrakech for one and a half years with her older sister Bella and her mother. Hideous Kinky is now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet ("Titanic," "Sense and Sensibility").

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Review:

Hideous Kinky begins as a small, cheerful autobiographical novel following Thurber's variation on Wordsworth: "Humor is emotional chaos recollected in tranquillity." In the mid-1960s, two girls, ages 5 and 7, travel with their mother from London to Marrakech. Also along for the ride are John, Mum's boyfriend, and Maretta, John's wife. Though the author is a descendant of Sigmund Freud, the title of her first book has little to do with the pleasure principle. Instead, it is the only phrase the sisters have heard Maretta speak, one that quickly becomes an all-purpose epithet: "One of the shepherds whistled and the dogs slung to the ground. Bea raised an eyebrow as she passed me. 'Hideous kinky,' she whispered." Esther Freud's vocabulary and tone veer easily from the childlike to the more sophisticated, particularly when she recounts speech or circumstances beyond a child's comprehension.

Once the group arrives in Marrakech, John and Maretta split off, and Mum hooks up with various men and pursues spirituality. The children, meanwhile, want nothing more than to be normal--or at least not to be so embarrassed by their mother's Islamic fervor: "'Oh Mum, please...' I was prepared to beg. 'Please don't be a Sufi.'" In Hideous Kinky, people appear and disappear with little reason or explanation. Though most of the characters are differentiated by one outstanding feature, Bilal, the itinerant builder and magician's apprentice who becomes one of Mum's lovers, is more complex. The narrator loves and trusts him from the start, and when she asks him if he will eventually return to England with them, "Bilal closed his eyes and began to hum along with Om Kalsoum, whose voice crackled and wept through a radio in the back of the café."

Hideous Kinky is curiously divided. The first half is a lark. The girls explore Marrakech, picking up the language and even passing themselves off as beggars. The family's only worries are about money, and these are soon cured by the next bank draft from their father. But the second half is more melancholy. Mum's religious zeal becomes rather less endearing, and as the girls' adventures turn more dangerous, local rituals and customs begin to lose their charm: "I didn't like to think about the camel festival. The camel, garlanded in flowers, collected us from our house in the Mellah, and we had followed it out of the city and high into the mountains in a procession of singing." The parade ends, however, with the animal's beheading. "Occasionally I looked at Bea to see if she was running over these events like I was, the sound effects living their own life behind her eyes, but she gave nothing away."

In the end, Hideous Kinky is a novel less about an exotic country seen through an innocent's eyes than about family, about having a deeply embarrassing mother, an older sister who does everything before you, and a distant father. It escapes sentimentality through simplicity: "Bilal was my Dad. No one denied it when I said so." The author, her sister, and her mother spent two years in Morocco, and while Esther Freud may not have invented her subject, she has re-created it with a light touch and delicate irony.

About the Author:

Esther Freud is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud. She trained as an actress before writing her first novel. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in London.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780151402168: Hideous Kinky

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0151402167 ISBN 13:  9780151402168
Publisher: Harcourt, 1992
Hardcover

9780880015936: Hideous Kinky

Ecco Pr, 1998
Softcover

9780140284775: Hideous Kinky

Pengui..., 1999
Softcover

9780241973660: Hideous Kinky (Penguin Essentials)

Viking, 2015
Softcover

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