All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hideous Kinky, by Esther Freud


Either the title attracts or repels you—hideous sounds distasteful, kinky sounds, well, weird. But because Hideous Kinky made the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die AND was made into a major motion picture, surely it warranted a read. After all, shouldn’t a book that made a list entitled “books you must read” be memorable? And if it was made into a movie, isn’t there is a plot worth dramatizing?

To quell your curiosity, and I’m not spoiling much here because this is explained in the earliest pages of the book, “hideous kinky” are merely two words our narrator’s seven-year-old sister Bea liked to repeat. Children often latch onto the sounds of words completely independent of their meaning, which is the case here. She and her sister would use these words in playing tag or other pretend games (p. 20):

“The key rule to the game was one invented by Bea to extricate herself in the unlikely event of her ever being caught. As I brushed the edge of her sleeve with my outstretched hand I would have to say something, a word invented by me, but if she saw me coming she could free herself by screaming 'Hideous!' or 'Kinky!' or both a second before I touched her, thereby freeing herself to race away between the tables and chairs while I panted behind – running good words over in my head.”

Incidentally, she also likes the word roofrack. The publisher must have thought Hideous Kinky Roofrack was too difficult to explain.

The narrator is five years old, which gives the reader a limited view of the characters and the facts integral to the plot. Her father is not identified, although we believe he lives in England, and her mother has left England with her two daughters for Marrakesh to “have adventures.” Although the time isn’t specified, we also suspect it may have been along the same time as that Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, “Marrakesh Express.”

The children suffer while their mom has adventures. They are hungry, poorly clothed, and befriend strangers. They learn to beg. Our narrator develops a rash that won’t go away and her sister has a gum infection that threatens to make all of her teeth fall out. Their mother has relationships but seeks a spiritual fulfillment. It’s not clear that she finds satisfaction in her relationships or in her seeking, and because the narrator's perspective is limited, it's difficult to guess.

Hideous Kinky was published in 1998 by Ecco Press. More information about the author can be found on the Contemporary Writers website. Freud most recently wrote the novel, Love Falls.

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