Book review: Freya

Anthony QuinnWhen I finished reading Freya I wanted to shout out to everyone around me to read it. Why? It is a story of friendship and love, truth and honesty, loyalty and betrayal. Anthony Quinn captures Freya immaculately – he seems to intuit so much women’s stuff so well – so much better than other male novelists recently writing from a female point of view. It is such a refreshing read, I hope it sells loads and wins loads. It deserves it. If you can, read it next.

Freya is the story of Freya Wyley from VE Day to the 1960s via Oxford, Nuremberg, Italy and mostly London. Recently demobbed from the Wrens, at which she achieved a senior position as bomb plotter in a world with few men, she goes up to Oxford unsure if she is too ‘old’ at the age of 21 to return to study. There she finds that pre-war expectations of women re-apply again and with her customary cussedness she fights against it. With the glimmer of an opportunity, she sets out to get a break as a journalist by interviewing a reclusive war reporter who will be attending the Nuremberg war trials. She calls in a favour from her father, lies, manipulates and bravely goes forth, setting foot into the ruins of the bombed city where she is later told she should not have ventured. But that is Freya: undaunted. She is strong, true, speaks without thinking and gets into trouble because of it. Of course it is the few times in which she is not honest, either with herself or with her best friend Nancy – who she met on the night of VE day when they got ‘stinko’ together – that make the most fascinating reading.

It is a joy to read a female character who is not nice all the time, who feels real, and who I can identify with more than some sugar-sweet modern protagonists. This book fairly fizzes along, read in two days on holiday, I found myself irritated when my Kindle’s battery died because I ignored the ‘battery low’ warning.

Quinn’s sense of time is perfect, he moves seamlessly from wartime to the Sixties. All his characters have depth, flaws and are believable, and his balance of action, contemplation and setting is exact. He covers a wide variety of subjects of the time – morality and art, homosexuality offences, celebrity, political rigour – by simply allowing Freya to investigate and report. The technique of covering Freya’s investigation of an article, followed by the published article, acts as a semi-colon before the next segment of her life.

Freya is Quinn’s fifth novel. Next, I will read Curtain Call, his fourth; and I won’t wait long.

If you like ‘Freya’, try:-
‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber
‘Sweet Caress’ by William Boyd
‘Vile Bodies’ by Evelyn Waugh

‘Freya’ by Anthony Quinn [UK: Jonathan Cape] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
FREYA by Anthony Quinn http://bit.ly/1rI7wlf #bookreview via @SandraDanby