Frieda by Annabel Abbs

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Frieda by Annabel Abbs

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A moving, evocative and thought provoking tale that uncovers the true tale behind an infamous literary classic, Frieda transports the reader to the early days of the Twentieth Century, and to the shocking consequences of a passionate affair…
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: November 2018
Publisher: Two Roads
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473691209

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Married to English Professor Ernest Weekley, aristocrat Frieda Von Richtofen finds herself stifled by the confines of married life. Visiting family in Munich, she becomes captivated by the ideas of revolution and free love. Meeting the penniless writer D.H. Lawrence, she finds herself drawn into a passionate affair and a tempestuous relationship, changing the course of both their lives, and unleashing a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature forever.

Even if you've not read it, you'll heard of Lady Chatterley's Lover. First published privately in 1928, the uncut version was published in England in 1960 -leading to publisher Penguin books being trialled under Obscenity laws. The publicity surrounding the court case led to the book selling over 3 million books following the completion of the court case – with the jury and judge finding in the publisher's favour. In the years since, many a teenager has pilfered a copy from their home or library – eager to read of the forbidden sex they'd heard so much about, and finding instead a book, occasional sex scenes aside, which is rather dry, with rather more focus on the decline of a marriage and the troubles surrounding the village mine.

Delving behind the fiction and scandal and into the true circumstances that inspired the tale of Lady Chatterley, Annabel Abbs brings to life the early 20th century in vivid detail – exploring in great detail a world that was far more open minded than many history books would have us believe. Detailing the struggles of a modern woman against the confines of society – Abbs brings Frieda to life with huge skill, and it's rather impossible not to like her as a character as she fights with fate in order to follow love and passion.

D.H. Lawrence is, rather famously, a more difficult character, and Abbs isn't afraid to show him in a light that feels true to history – a troubled, fiery and difficult man, he's none the less drawn in a sympathetic light here – making him an endlessly complex and readable character who effortlessly spars with the passionate Frieda in a way that allows the reader an understanding of their difficult and constantly shifting relationship.

A read that combines literary research with a skill for creating a fascinating narrative, Frieda breathes new life to a literary figure, and sheds new light on a literary classic. Fascinating, beautifully written and hugely gripping, it's a read that has changed by understanding of D.H. Lawrence, and comes highly recommended.

For further reading, I recommend The Trials of Radclyffe Hall by Diana Souhami – another read that offers a new understanding of another literary scandal.

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