Though written in three timelines – each mostly compelling in their own right – this is Kate’s story. But to what extent are our stories ever our own? ... It is tempting to map Freud’s real-life family (tempestuous sculptor Lucian, for example) on to the novel’s complex interplay of characters, but to pin this book down as autobiographical does it a great disservice. I Couldn’t Love You More is a crafted novel, made with great skill and attention, the way Felix makes his sculptures, the way Kate makes her painted trees ... You want, instinctively, to say that this is a book of echoes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Things are much more real than echoes. Each generation of women lives wholly, not merely as shadows of the other but completely themselves. The novel is about the patterns of being in this one family; and the patterns of being a woman; and the patterns of being a person, wherever and whenever we are alive.
While its delicate account of unmarried motherhood and some stickily yearning sex scenes are unlikely to see it concealed on any modern bookshelf, Esther Freud’s ninth novel catches at this postwar moment when women balanced on the cusp of something that looked like liberation ... . In I Couldn’t Love You More , however, family becomes a fierce craving for those unwillingly wrenched from it ... The sharp intimacy of the writing is sometimes blunted by the story’s overfamiliarity ... Yet Freud’s story remains one worth telling, full of compassion and — regardless of what Haughey may have thought — a profound decency.
Freud follows the three women for another 30 years, subtly and often viscerally capturing the complex human emotions that course below the surface of a society where attitudes about sex, sin, secrets, silence, and shame spread damage and loss to all. With poignant symbolism and heartbreaking empathy, Freud lays bare the fraught relationships between men and women, parents and children, and the holy bond between mother and child.