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Hideous Kinky: A Novel Paperback – February 1, 1999
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[A] near-seamless meshing of family feeling, history and imagination....A song of childhood exile, a paean to the troublesome beauty o life on the run. -- The New York Times Book Review
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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Paul Bowles wrote in his scarifying African novel "The Sheltering Sky", of the differences between the 'tourist' and the 'intrepid traveler'. The characters of this book, the free-spirited mother and her very young and very resilient daughters, definitely fall into the latter category. Far from the comforts of England, the three wayfarers live an existence that sometimes seems like the exotically colored "Arabian Nights", and at other times like an Arabian nightmare.
Freud illuminates the North African landscape with clear prose that describes the pungent food, flora and fauna, and the reader is drawn along with the children into a very sensual world in which pleasures are heightened by their scarcity. What Freud leaves out is for the awakened reader to imagine. She achieves a rich atmosphere with sparse, suggestive description.
It is a memorable but hard existence. As the mother and her charges scrape by with the help of many other wily characters, it is clear that danger lurks just beneath the surface of the free and simple life, from quick and lethal scorpions to unsavory circumstances, unpredictable and unreliable companions,and nothing but folk remedies for maladies from gum infections to persistent skin rashes. The reader may find it easy to chastise the mother as she pursues her infatuation with investigating Sufism as her children dangle near the streets.
But it all turns out well. "Hideous Kinky" is a worthwhile, enjoyable read about a world inhabited to "the hilt".