cover image Peerless Flats

Peerless Flats

Esther Freud. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $19.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-171608-1

Freud's second novel is a powerfully unconventional portrait of a London teenager struggling to build a life in a broken family plagued by poverty and drugs. Sixteen-year-old Lisa inhabits a derelict building called Peerless Flats with her aimless mother and rambunctious half-brother. Shy and overly responsible, she has always lived in the shadow of her flamboyant older sister, Ruby, a heroin addict who is the obvious favorite of their father, a mysterious figure involved with racetrack gambling. Lisa, who wants to be an actress, tries desperately to make someone care for, or at least notice her. Living in a world where defeated people automatically turn to drugs and alcohol, she becomes obsessed with the thought that someone might slip LSD into her food or drink; eventually she stops eating altogether. Only by renewing her faith in those she loves can she be saved from self-inflicted starvation. Like its predecessor, Hideous Kinky , this novel is short on plot but strong on character and setting. Freud (daughter of painter Lucian and great-granddaughter of Sigmund) depicts in vividly immediate prose Lisa's deterioration as her pleas for love go unheard. With barely a nod to conventionally linear narrative structure, this unusual book is like a beautiful, disturbing painting that renders, on an inutitive level, a troubled young girl's soul. ( Apr. )