Esther Freud (Sigmund’s great-granddaughter) has written a compelling, if slightly unsatisfying, coming-of-age tale with her novel, Love Falls. When 17 year old Lara heads to Tuscany with her father (a man who is practically a stranger to her) for a summer holiday, she isn’t quite sure of what to expect. Her father, a slightly distant intellectual historian called Lambert, has been invited to visit an old friend and wants Lara to accompany him. Lara is well-traveled: she and her bohemian mother, Cathy, have been all over together, but Lara has never been to Italy, so she’s excited at the prospect of leaving London for a few weeks.
Italy is transformative for Lara. She has the opportunity to observe her father, his relationship with the woman they are visiting, the elegant and slightly snobbish, Caroline, and observe the complicated and fraught relationships of the adults around her.
At a nearby villa, Lara meets Willoughbys. There are a lot of names and relationships to keep track of but the most important Willoughby is Kip – a boy about Lara’s age who is irreverant and beautiful.
Lara spends her weeks swimming and visiting with the Willoughbys and the days unfold in a sort of dreamy, hot haze. It’s as you imagine a summer in Italy might be…or, at any rate, as I imagine it.
There’s menace, though, in Lara’s world and it’s this menace that speeds the reader along. Even though it doesn’t amount to much in the end, Lara is certainly changed by the events which she experiences. I think Freud does a terrific job of suspending Lara in that particular space between youth and adulthood. Lara is as much an observor as a participant in what happens during those long, hot days. And because we see things only from Lara’s point of view, many of the tangled relationships are never untied; animosities are never explained and wrongs never quite righted.
As a coming-of-age tale, though, it is compelling and well-written.