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The Servants' Quarters Paperback – Bargain Price, April 16, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547336039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547336039
  • ASIN: B005DIDSF8
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freed's sixth novel, a moving and unconventional romance spanning 20 years, blossoms in post-WWII South Africa, where Cressida, a precocious nine year old, lives with her mother, Muriel; sister Miranda; and her comatose father. Faced with an uncertain future, the family moves into the servant's quarters at family friend George Harding's stately manor. When Cressida makes an impression on Harding, a wealthy but disfigured former RAF pilot, she is invited to the big house to serve as a companion to Harding's slow nephew. Harding also appoints himself mentor to Cressida, and it gradually comes to light that his interest in Cressida may extend past mentorship, even though his gnarled body becomes a physical manifestation of Cressida's many fears. With time, as Harding's health worsens, however, Cressida is beguiled by what she initially perceived to be grotesque. Freed handles issues of class, wealth and dedication with a light but knowing hand, adding depth to a bittersweet love story. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Born shortly after World War II, and shortly after an accident leaves her father comatose, the adolescent Cressida uses her daring nature to hide all scars. When Mr. Harding, a badly disfigured pilot, invites Cressida, her sister, and their feckless mother to live in his carriage house, Cressida is drawn deeper into a new world. Echoes of Jane Eyre are so strong, the story could almost be seen as a retelling, but the South African setting and World War II time frame give it a fully fresh feeling. While Cressida evolves from a somewhat obnoxious girl into a fully realized adult, Harding’s motives and true feelings remain mysterious throughout the book. A strange and beautifully told story of love and growth. --Marta Segal Block --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

LYNN FREED was awarded the inaugural Katherine Anne Porter Award for fiction by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the author of six novels, a short story collection, and a collection of essays.

Customer Reviews

She is opinionated, curious, and sometimes very unladylike.
Dondi
The first person narrative and the crowd of characters all being moved around like chess pieces in the 216 or so pages made all of this too frenetic.
L And S Video, Inc.
The other characters were equally well developed and interesting.
Evelyn A. Getchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Summerfield on April 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Told in three parts, over the course of a crucial decade in the life of a young woman, this unusual novel is at once a complex love story, an intricate character analysis and a evocative period piece about life in post-World War II South Africa. The novel juxtaposes the story of the Hardings, who are "old school" wealthy and educated members of the British upper class, with that of the Jewish family who they have invited to move into their servants' quarters.

When the novel opens, nine-year old Cressida, the youngest daughter of a Jewish family fallen on hard times because her father is in a bed-ridden vegetative state, is raging because she is being forced by her beautiful, socially-ambitious mother to spend time with George Harding. Mr. Harding, as Cressida always calls him, is a former RAF pilot who was severely burned in a plane crash, and then held in a German POW camp during the war. His injuries have left him so disfigured that he usually wears a hat and veil to conceal his face. Cressida, the novel's narrator, is defiant and angry at Mr. Harding's request that she spend time with his nephew, Edgar. At first it seems as though Mr. Harding only wants Cressida to visit his mansion to mentor the backward, rather stupid Edgar. But it soon becomes apparent that Mr. Harding is taking a hand in molding Cressida's character, for some hidden purpose of his own.

This novel is beautifully written, with an almost hypnotically strong narrative voice. The three parts of the novel, narrated by Cressida when she is nine, then fifteen and finally nineteen, are each told in a style which reflects both the age-appropriate style and vocabulary, and the leaps in understanding and sophistication which a real person goes through in growing up.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amy Y. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lynn Freed's "The Servants' Quarters" seemed very dark for such a small book. There were very many well-developed characters yet I had trouble picturing them as anything more than shadows. The story revolves around the May-December relationship between young Cressida and Mr. Harding, whose face had been destroyed during WWII.

The story starts when Cressida's family moves into Mr. Harding's servants' quarters. The characters seem tired, worn out, having suffered through the War- each carrying his or her own damage just as Mr. Harding wears his scars outwardly. Cressida's father is incapacitated from a head injury and her mother has run out of money to keep the family.

Mr. Harding takes an interest in mentoring Cressida and through her passes his hope for the future.

A very intimate novel, a quick read but gives one a great deal upon which to think. Reads a bit like a memoir, a bit like a dark, Dickensian novel. Turns out to be a tale of quiet beauty, a sense of a new start and moving on from the past. Not a light read, not the least.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Magnussen on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Lynn Freed's The Servants' Quarters, a bittersweet saga of love - a love that, in this novel, is particularly unconventional - takes place over the span of many years, packing an epic of a romance into a little over 200 pages. Certainly the characters in the book are not immediately likeable, and thus, not for everyone: flaws and irritations in each character stick out obviously, but in a way that creates a full-blooded human story. Perfection is not Freed's goal. The story moves along rapidly, despite that fact that there are limited locales. Much of the plot takes place in either of two houses, but it is the narrative and biting insight into class that propels the story forward. If at times the prose is repetitious, it only serves to emphasize the circuitous nature of life, and of the lives of the book's characters. The setting was vague and offered little, but the central romance was developed well. Most exceptional about the writing is that it created imminently dislikable people and made them not only sympathetic, but understandable. By creating interesting back stories and revealing information little by little, Freed not only builds suspense, but she simultaneously makes her characters evolve in slight, subtle ways. With Southern Gothic images pervading the novel, the author takes what could have been a generic tale and infused it with charm borrowed from several different literary styles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Walter Hypes on August 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This small, but passionate novel reminded me a lot of Cold Comfort Farm, the 1932 comic novel by Stella Gibbons. Although The Servants' Quarters is far from a parody, there are most certainly parallels to the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of life. Freed's novel, set in South Africa in the 1950's, circles around the hopes and fears of Cressida, a resourceful Jewish girl who must battle with the desires of her wayward mother, her bed-ridden father, and the long-festering emotional problems appearing the hill in Harding's Rest, a grand manor presided over by the presence of the officious George Harding, who was disfigured in World War 2 and is said to be strangely mad.

Lynn Freed portrays Cressida on a small canvas. She's a level-headed urban girl who applies modern common sense to solve her problems, yet there's also a vulnerability about her and a sense of rebelliousness. Her story begins as Cressida's mother Muriel, her sister Miranda and Cressida herself have recently hit upon hard times. Muriel is fully aware this is the season for change. Cressida's father lies in his bedroom in a coma, looked after Phineas the local Zulu house keeper and caretaker, All that is left of him is a smooth dark body with a nappy pinned around it like an Indian's. Saddled with a white elephant, and forced to live within their means for a change, Muriel is determined to save them all from living in a cheap little flat on the beachfront. Then comes the news they will be inhabiting the carriage house at the end of the driveway, the servants quarters behind the big house, Harding's Rest. Apparently the Hardings are "old school," a dying breed that didn't stay home and play golf when the world was in a crisis.
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