I Couldn’t Love You More by Esther Freud

A Magdalene Laundry looms over three generations of mothers navigating life and loss.

In her new novel, I Couldn’t Love You More, prizewinning author Esther Freud — great-granddaughter of Sigmund and daughter of painter Lucian — weaves a multi-generational tale of love, loss, and motherhood spanning 52 years. Aoife and Cash Kelly marry in 1939 and run a pub together in London before moving to a farm in Ireland. Aoife is a dutiful wife and compassionate mother who lives in the shadow of her cantankerous, no-nonsense husband.

Twenty years later, Aoife and Cash’s 18-year-old daughter, Rosaleen, can’t wait to leave St. Joseph’s boarding school — which her parents forced her to attend — for London, where she meets sculptor Felix Lichtman. Although he is more than twice her age, the two embark on a sensual affair, and Rosaleen quickly falls in love: “He’d woken her, changed her, shown her how it felt to be alive.”

Felix is thrilled when she gets pregnant, telling her, “I couldn’t love you more.” But when a tragedy pulls him from Rosaleen’s life, she suddenly finds herself unmarried and on her own without a plan. How will she possibly have and raise a baby by herself?

Aoife realizes her daughter’s secret when Rosaleen comes home for Christmas. Yet the older woman doesn’t say a word about it and is glad when Rosaleen doesn’t either and returns to London. Although she feels guilty for hoping Rosaleen loses the baby and asks God for forgiveness, Aoife believes her first duty is to Cash, who’d want nothing to do with an unwed, pregnant daughter.

Read the rest of my review at Washington Independent Review of Books.

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