Free Love: A Novel

HarperAudio. Feb. 2022. 9:02 hrs. ISBN 9780063137806. $27.99. F
Set against the backdrop of 1960s London with counterculture in full swing, respectability loses its allure when Phyllis meets Nicky, and a spontaneous kiss sparks passion. The ensuing affair between this stifled housewife and a dilettante writer half her age transforms not only Phyllis, as she encounters people and ideas far outside her comfortably bourgeoisie experience, but each member of her abandoned family. Teenaged Colette seizes the chance to redefine herself at school, while struggling at home to take over her mother’s routines for sensitive younger brother Hugh and their stiffly stoic father Roger. Through her characters’ exquisitely rendered inner lives, Hadley (The Past) reveals a web of impulse, yearning, regret, and long-kept secrets that ensnare even when liberation and happiness seem within reach. Narrator Abigail Thaw’s unobtrusive, fluent narration allows listeners to savor the crisp precision of Hadley’s prose and to sink easily into the story in all its sweet sensuality and bitter realism. Thaw’s Standard English accent evokes both the privilege and the confinement of British class hierarchy, and her gentle voice is a pure pleasure to hear.
VERDICT Personal and societal growing pains are deftly contrasted in Hadley’s highly recommended historical drama.
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