Like her first novel, HIDEOUS KINKY, Esther Freud’s PEERLESS FLATS presents a girl in an anxious relationship with her family. Sixteen-year-old Lisa rushes about London, protective of her somewhat harebrained mother Marguerite and her violently imaginative five-year-old brother Max. She worships her eighteen-year-old sister Ruby (who has left home and is a drug addict) and indulges her love for her childhood sweetheart Tom and her recent boyfriend Quentin.
No one in Lisa’s world is settled or secure, including herself. Tom leaves a farm management job in East Anglia, Quentin leaves Belfast and deals drugs in London, Lisa’s father is a gambler, her mother is unemployed and moves from apartment to apartment, as does Ruby, who finally moves to Argentina, and Lisa is more often than not on a train or bus, ferrying her affections from home to a pub to find Quentin, to a restaurant to eat with her father, to an apartment or hospital to bring companionship and gifts to Ruby, and back home to keep Marguerite and Max company.
Lisa is also enrolled in a full-time drama course in a London college. She wants to make something of her life, and for her, acting is a way to protect her sense of self from others. When she keeps secrets (which she says she is good at) from her mother, she is protecting not only Ruby, whom she keeps them for, but herself, so she can avoid Marguerite’s outrage.
Lisa’s wish to be approved of by everyone she...
(The entire section is 509 words.)