Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Marnie FitzPatrick is a reclusive sixth-former from Hertfordshire with a dysfunctional family, a penchant for Pythagoras' Theorem and an addiction to doughnuts and gin. Julie Crewe is a disillusioned maths teacher who lives vicariously through the girls she teaches, yet who once danced barefoot through Central Park with a man called Jo she has never been able to forget.
This is the story of what happened in the summer of 1969, when the sun burned down on the roof of the Shredded Wheat factory, and a boy called Freddie Friday danced to the records he had stolen. This is about first love, and last love, and all the strange stuff in between. This is what happens when three people are bound together by something that can't be calculated or explained by any equation.
This is what happened when they saw the open door.
Love Notes for Freddie is the first book I have read by Eva Rice although I know her debut novel The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets has a special place in many people’s hearts. This is a love story but not told in the usual manner as in the majority of chick lit books. It took me an awfully long time to get into the story possibly because I was expecting something else and I had to become accustomed to the author’s style of writing. The pace was languid and slow which at times frustrated me but coming towards the end something finally hit me and I realised what a beautiful moving piece of writing this actually is. This is a novel which I will certainly re-read in the future. It’s only now that I have finished the book and have had time to reflect on what I have read that I realise I didn’t savour everything like I should have and didn’t give it the full appreciation it undoubtedly deserves.
Love Notes for Freddie is a story of love - young love, hidden love, unrequited love and forbidden love. Set during the hot summer of 1969 and told from the alternative viewpoints of Marnie - a girl on the cusp of adulthood and change who has a unique talent for maths and her teacher Miss Crewe. Marnie is attending St. Libby’s, a private school for girls. Her love for maths is encouraged by Miss Crewe and you could see Marnie had such respect for her and wished to do anything that would please her. Miss Crewe was my favourite character as I found I identified with her the most. She keeps things hidden from the girls and never reveals her past but the reader senses she is concealing a heartache which has stayed unresolved with her for numerous years. When this is finally revealed I was left open mouthed and my sympathies for Miss Crewe just grew and grew. Just as the school is about to break up for the holidays Marnie and conspirator Rachel Porter throw caution to the wind and engage in an act that leads to their expulsion. I was angry that Rachel forced Marnie into the situation but on reflection if this event had not happened Marnie would never have encountered Freddie Friday from the shredded wheat factory. Therefore this summer of growing, change, adoration and hurt would never have taken place.
Marnie becomes obsessed with Freddie and when she discovers his secret love for dance she contacts Miss Crewe to help out. For once she herself had dreams of being a dancer but a terrible incident left her hopes in tatters. The more we read of these two women we see the love they develop for Freddie. Their love for him is different but it helps them to connect and develop a special friendship and relationship that lasts for six glorious weeks. There is more going on with Marnie than we are first led to believe, she has the incident and subsequent fall out always on her mind. Not to mention having a family who are not the most conventional. I feel Marnie was struggling and that one incident tipped her over the edge but her devotion to Freddie and the support of the wonderful Miss Crewe are what helps her through those summer weeks. They can see what she has turned to is not the answer and their guidance will help her get back on track. I wanted to hear more from Freddie, we never read a chapter from his viewpoint and we are left to piece together his family situation. Did the author think he was not as important? Rather he was employed a tool which meant Marnie and Miss Crewe began to take that next big step in their lives and emotionally confront the past head on.
Marnie’s family were interesting to say the least. She has a twin Caspar and I wouldn’t have known this only for it is stated at the beginning, they don’t seem to have that much of a connection. Instead Caspar seems very off the rails and a law onto himself, he loves taking photos of the family in mid argument. Jukey the matriarch of the family is quite flighty and I felt she needed to be there more for Marnie. As for step father Howard they all seemed to live in a state of perpetual fear of him hoping they wouldn’t say or do something which would cause him upset. In the later stages of the novel a new storyline developed about the family, one which I wish had been explained or talked about more. It was interesting and added a whole other dimension to the book and would certainly have made me view characters in a whole new light. In Love Notes for Freddie Eva Rice has written a beautiful book that raises many issues and would be perfect for a book club. I feel it was more of a grown up read for me and that could have been what put me off initially but I am so glad I gave this book the chance it deserved. I loved the emotions and issues it raised and think many readers this summer would feel the same as they sit next to a poolside this summer.
I'd like to thank Alainna at Heron Books for sending Emma a copy of Love Notes for Freddie to review.