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I Couldn't Love You More

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A sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past  It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with the A sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past  It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with their daughters in tow. One of these daughters—fiery, independent-minded Rosaleen—moves back to London, where she meets and begins an affair with the famous sculptor Felix Lehmann, a German-Jewish refugee artist over twice her tender eighteen years. When Rosaleen finds herself pregnant with Felix’s child, she is evicted from her flat, dismissed from her job, and desperate to hide the secret from her family. Where, and to whom, can she turn? Meanwhile, Kate, another generation down, lives in present-day London with her young daughter and husband, an unsuccessful musician and destructive alcoholic. Adopted and floundering to find a sense of herself in the midst of her unhappy marriage, Kate sets out to track down her birth mother, a search that leads her to a Magdalene Laundry in Ireland and the harrowing history that it holds. Stirring and nostalgic at moments, visceral and propulsive at others, I Couldn’t Love You More is a tender, candid portrait of love, sex, motherhood, and the enduring ties of family. It is impossible not to fall under the spell of this tale of mothers and daughters, wives and muses, secrets and outright lies.


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A sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past  It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with the A sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past  It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with their daughters in tow. One of these daughters—fiery, independent-minded Rosaleen—moves back to London, where she meets and begins an affair with the famous sculptor Felix Lehmann, a German-Jewish refugee artist over twice her tender eighteen years. When Rosaleen finds herself pregnant with Felix’s child, she is evicted from her flat, dismissed from her job, and desperate to hide the secret from her family. Where, and to whom, can she turn? Meanwhile, Kate, another generation down, lives in present-day London with her young daughter and husband, an unsuccessful musician and destructive alcoholic. Adopted and floundering to find a sense of herself in the midst of her unhappy marriage, Kate sets out to track down her birth mother, a search that leads her to a Magdalene Laundry in Ireland and the harrowing history that it holds. Stirring and nostalgic at moments, visceral and propulsive at others, I Couldn’t Love You More is a tender, candid portrait of love, sex, motherhood, and the enduring ties of family. It is impossible not to fall under the spell of this tale of mothers and daughters, wives and muses, secrets and outright lies.

30 review for I Couldn't Love You More

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    I Couldn't Love You More is a sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past. It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with their daughters in tow. One of these daughters—fiery, independent-minded Rosaleen—moves back to Lon I Couldn't Love You More is a sweeping story of three generations of women, crossing from London to Ireland and back again, and the enduring effort to retrieve the secrets of the past. It’s London, 1960, and Aoife Kelly—once the sparkling object of young men’s affections—runs pubs with her brusque, barking husband, Cash. Their courtship began in wartime London, before they returned to Ireland with their daughters in tow. One of these daughters—fiery, independent-minded Rosaleen—moves back to London, where she meets and begins an affair with the famous sculptor Felix Lehmann, a German-Jewish refugee artist over twice her tender eighteen years. When Rosaleen finds herself pregnant with Felix’s child, she is evicted from her flat, dismissed from her job, and desperate to hide the secret from her family. Where, and to whom, can she turn? Meanwhile, Kate, another generation down, lives in present-day London with her young daughter and husband, an unsuccessful musician and destructive alcoholic. Adopted and floundering to find a sense of herself in the midst of her unhappy marriage, Kate sets out to track down her birth mother, a search that leads her to a Magdalene Laundry in Ireland and the harrowing history that it holds. Stirring and nostalgic at moments, visceral and propulsive at others, I Couldn’t Love You More is a tender, candid portrait of love, sex, motherhood, and the enduring ties of family. It is impossible not to fall under the spell of this tale of mothers and daughters, wives and muses, secrets and outright lies. Compassionate, moving and utterly captivating to read. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Spicer

    A story of family; three generations of women, from WW2 in London, to Ireland in the 60's, to the present day. Three stories told concurrently; Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate – live in very different times and move in different circles, but they are all irrevocably damaged by a series of events that shape all of their lives. The hardship of war and the true human cost takes the Kelly family down a path that it will never, truly recover from. A story that spans an ambitious historical and social landscap A story of family; three generations of women, from WW2 in London, to Ireland in the 60's, to the present day. Three stories told concurrently; Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate – live in very different times and move in different circles, but they are all irrevocably damaged by a series of events that shape all of their lives. The hardship of war and the true human cost takes the Kelly family down a path that it will never, truly recover from. A story that spans an ambitious historical and social landscape, encompassing a part of our very recent history, where women were dehumanised and vilified when they found themselves in a situation that was already frightening and utterly life changing. They were cast aside and hidden from ‘decent’ society, treated like dogs in a place that purported to offer sanctuary and by women who were supposed to be of a ‘higher calling’. A book so full of sadness, you read it and feel its weight, but there are glimmers of joy and they lift you to a place of hope. Esther Freud’s prose are sparse; you need to have your wits about you, but she is worth the concentration. I felt as if I were in a whirlpool; pulled in a vortex of emotion where every page drew me closer to its centre and closer to the beautifully flawed and damaged women at the core. This melancholic examination of the relationships between mother and daughter has taken its toll on me; I still feel the heaviness of it, a book well written and a book well received. Thank you. #netgalley #icouldntloveyoumore #bloomsburypublishing

  3. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    This is the story of 3 generations of women whose lives were changed by the strictures of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the effects of an unplanned, untenable pregnancy. We heard about the incredible abuse of the nuns in the book, PHILOMENA. This book uses the same institution as its center. The reader follows Aiofe, Rosaleen and Kate as they struggle to understand what happened inside those walls. Told from the different vantage points, we follow their stories. At times, I did find some of This is the story of 3 generations of women whose lives were changed by the strictures of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the effects of an unplanned, untenable pregnancy. We heard about the incredible abuse of the nuns in the book, PHILOMENA. This book uses the same institution as its center. The reader follows Aiofe, Rosaleen and Kate as they struggle to understand what happened inside those walls. Told from the different vantage points, we follow their stories. At times, I did find some of the narratives confusing. This is a great novel for women’s groups. There are many issues to discuss. Thank you Netgalley for this interesting read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is the story of three women, Aoife Kelly who is married to the unlikeable Cashel, her daughter Rosaleen who becomes pregnant by a married man and Kate who is unhappily married to Matt with a young daughter, Freya. Set in Ireland and London from WW2 to the present day, it is quite a sad and haunting book. Aoife has lost touch with her daughter Rosaleen and the family are forbidden to speak about her as they feel she brought shame on the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Rosaleen th This is the story of three women, Aoife Kelly who is married to the unlikeable Cashel, her daughter Rosaleen who becomes pregnant by a married man and Kate who is unhappily married to Matt with a young daughter, Freya. Set in Ireland and London from WW2 to the present day, it is quite a sad and haunting book. Aoife has lost touch with her daughter Rosaleen and the family are forbidden to speak about her as they feel she brought shame on the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Rosaleen thought she would be helped by the nuns at the Convent in Ireland but nothing could have been further from the truth. Kate is adopted and keen to trace her birth mother and sometimes even thinks she has seen her in various places. This is a complex story and quite confusing to start with but I am so glad that I persevered with it as once I got the time lines straight in my mind I really enjoyed it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ravina

    Thank you NetGalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This is a heartbreaking novel that takes place across the span of three generations of Kelly women - Aoife, Rosaleen, and Kate - and explores institutions known as ‘mother and baby homes’. It is clear that Esther Freud undertook extensive and complete research on the subject as the story is very well fleshed out; she discusses the strictures of Catholicism and the condemnation of unwed mothers through the three Thank you NetGalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This is a heartbreaking novel that takes place across the span of three generations of Kelly women - Aoife, Rosaleen, and Kate - and explores institutions known as ‘mother and baby homes’. It is clear that Esther Freud undertook extensive and complete research on the subject as the story is very well fleshed out; she discusses the strictures of Catholicism and the condemnation of unwed mothers through the three different women at three different times. There is a strong theme of loneliness interwoven with the unconditional and undying love of a mother, alongside a briefer discussion of the restraints that the men in these women’s lives placed upon them. It is an incredibly painful and bittersweet story, and introduced me to something that I wasn’t previously aware of and was devastated to discover did, in fact, exist. My only issue was that I found it a bit difficult to follow at the beginning and that there were a couple of things that felt randomly placed, lacking an introduction into the story, an ending, or an explanation. (3.5)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This is not a new story... generations of women ,moulded by the catholic church and its attitude to marriage and illegitimate babies. For me,this was definitely one of the better told stories. I kept telling myself one more page,as I got so invested in the three womens lives. It was only my kindle dying that had me stop,and by that point it was way past bedtime. Hours past. Three women also defined by the men they become involved with,each of them restricting in their own way. I felt genuine sadness This is not a new story... generations of women ,moulded by the catholic church and its attitude to marriage and illegitimate babies. For me,this was definitely one of the better told stories. I kept telling myself one more page,as I got so invested in the three womens lives. It was only my kindle dying that had me stop,and by that point it was way past bedtime. Hours past. Three women also defined by the men they become involved with,each of them restricting in their own way. I felt genuine sadness at some of the plot lines,not just in the wider scope,but the impact it had individually. A really really good read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    What a deeply sad but wonderful story. It's about being a mother and the lengths you go to both find yourself in the midst of being a mom and lose yourself. It's a story of three women, and at first their three stories are a bit jarring. You can't tell how they all fit although they book even tells you. I think Kate's story of 'now' was the easiest to read. Her struggles and juggles as a mother and wife while also working as a teaching and practicing artist are easy to understand and identify wi What a deeply sad but wonderful story. It's about being a mother and the lengths you go to both find yourself in the midst of being a mom and lose yourself. It's a story of three women, and at first their three stories are a bit jarring. You can't tell how they all fit although they book even tells you. I think Kate's story of 'now' was the easiest to read. Her struggles and juggles as a mother and wife while also working as a teaching and practicing artist are easy to understand and identify with. Rosaleen is an easy second to understand as you learn of her affair with an older man and her easy, simple life. It's Aoife's story that a struggled through more and found it more of a distraction than an addition to the story. These three women are at very different stages of their life and it all revolves around their love of their child but also their journey to discover themselves (and be surprised by what they are capable of) and to understand what they want from life. It was mesmerizing and hard to stop reading once you started. As I was completely swept away with the story, it was easy to love this one. A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Sanchez

    The story begins in 1960 where independent, fiery Rosaleen begins an affair with a famous sculptor twice her age. She finds herself pregnant, evicted from her flat, dismissed from her job, and desperate to hide her pregnancy from her family. In dire need of help, Rosaleen turns to the sisters of Sacred Hearts for shelter and safety. What Rosaleen doesn’t know is the safety of the sisters comes with a price, is it worth it? Flash forward to present-day London, Kate lives with her daughter and husb The story begins in 1960 where independent, fiery Rosaleen begins an affair with a famous sculptor twice her age. She finds herself pregnant, evicted from her flat, dismissed from her job, and desperate to hide her pregnancy from her family. In dire need of help, Rosaleen turns to the sisters of Sacred Hearts for shelter and safety. What Rosaleen doesn’t know is the safety of the sisters comes with a price, is it worth it? Flash forward to present-day London, Kate lives with her daughter and husband, she sees her biological mother in every woman she meets. She struggles to find herself in the midst of an unhappy relationship. She’s lost and sets out to track down her birth mother. This book was hard to get into, it flashes from past to present so quickly it gives you whiplash. Oftentimes I found I didn’t know what time period I was reading about. The characters got confusing, many of them not developing at all. After reading the first few chapters I almost put down the book, but I abhor DNFing a book! I kept pushing and started to grow to love Kate. Kate is strong because she has to be, for her daughter, all the while internally struggling to find herself. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a slow-burn mystery unfolding. I suggest if you do pick this one up, be patient, this book gets very interesting towards the end and you will find yourself turning the pages to see how the main characters' lives unfold and connect.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alyse

    I picked this up on a whim, and I ended up loving the storyline of three generations of women. The way the Catholic Church was woven into the story, most notably the Church's infamous 'mother and baby homes' in Ireland, was both horrifying and poignant, especially as an investigation into these homes was recently completed. I found a few parts in the beginning difficult to follow and lacking explanation, but once I got past these, I was hooked, and the ending was particularly satisfying. I picked this up on a whim, and I ended up loving the storyline of three generations of women. The way the Catholic Church was woven into the story, most notably the Church's infamous 'mother and baby homes' in Ireland, was both horrifying and poignant, especially as an investigation into these homes was recently completed. I found a few parts in the beginning difficult to follow and lacking explanation, but once I got past these, I was hooked, and the ending was particularly satisfying.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mackenzie-Smaller

    This is a beautifully written story of maternal love and loss, spanning a time period from World War 2 until the present day. Told from the perspectives of Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, who are grandmother, mother, and granddaughter on their family tree this novel focuses mostly on the impact of Rosaleen’s story on everyone else as she becomes pregnant with the baby of a married man and enters a truly dreadful Irish convent. Her disconnection from her family as a result provides the pivotal themes o This is a beautifully written story of maternal love and loss, spanning a time period from World War 2 until the present day. Told from the perspectives of Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, who are grandmother, mother, and granddaughter on their family tree this novel focuses mostly on the impact of Rosaleen’s story on everyone else as she becomes pregnant with the baby of a married man and enters a truly dreadful Irish convent. Her disconnection from her family as a result provides the pivotal themes of this novel. The start of this book is quite confusing, but it slowly draws you in. It made me angry and sad, but also filled me with admiration for the quiet strength of these three generations of women, who all had a lot of emotional turmoil to endure. It’s thought provoking to consider the way in which society has changed (and the ways in which it hasn’t) and to consider male and female roles within the novel. I think this is a read which will stay with me for a long time. Read with The Pigeonhole.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jude Hayland

    I found the first part of this novel quite confusing with all the different perspectives and voices - but once I’d got into it, I loved it. Although I found some aspects a little unconvincing it was gripping and I hugely admired the quality of the writing. A compelling and absorbing read and for me one of Esther Freud’s best.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Glynis Jane

    Stunning!!! Full review to follow.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pheadra

    I read this through my online book club and several readers gave up on it early on. Understandable as the manner of storytelling was confusing.   I'm glad I stuck with it though, because the second half was better than the beginning. It is the story of three generations of women. Firstly, Aoife Kelly and her highly unlikable husband Cashel. Secondly, one of their daughters Rosaleen who has an affair with sculptor — Felix Lehmann. She falls pregnant by him and is left to fend for herself. She tur I read this through my online book club and several readers gave up on it early on. Understandable as the manner of storytelling was confusing.   I'm glad I stuck with it though, because the second half was better than the beginning. It is the story of three generations of women. Firstly, Aoife Kelly and her highly unlikable husband Cashel. Secondly, one of their daughters Rosaleen who has an affair with sculptor — Felix Lehmann. She falls pregnant by him and is left to fend for herself. She turns to the sisters at a convent more akin to a house of horrors. The 3rd generation representative is Kate, living  in present-day London with a daughter and alcoholic husband. Adopted, Kate is determined to find her birth mother. For the most part this story was upsetting and disturbing and held true to the notion that history repeats itself and we pay for the sins of our fathers. 3 and a half stars 

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura Doe

    A very confusing book. Timelines all over the place and changing between there different characters meant that I spent most of the first half of the book confused about what was happening and how old certain characters were at that point in the story. The story follows three women Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, who are three generations of the same family. Throughout the book Aoife is wondering where her daughter has gone as she seems to have vanished without a trace after coming home one Christmas a A very confusing book. Timelines all over the place and changing between there different characters meant that I spent most of the first half of the book confused about what was happening and how old certain characters were at that point in the story. The story follows three women Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, who are three generations of the same family. Throughout the book Aoife is wondering where her daughter has gone as she seems to have vanished without a trace after coming home one Christmas and then never to be heard from again. Rosaleen has her own secret, that she is pregnant with a married man’s baby and finds herself going to a convent to have her baby, and this book sheds some light on the horrors that unmarried mothers had to suffer before and after giving birth and having their babies taken from them. Kate was adopted and is trying to find out information about her birth mother whilst also trying to cope with her husband who spends most of his time “with the band” and coming back drunk most nights. The story was an interesting look at how the Catholic Church dealt with expectant mothers who weren’t married, and although you’d think going to a convent for help they would be well looked after, it didn’t work out that way at all. But I did find that it was unnecessarily confusing and jumped around with the timelines quite a lot. I found myself not wanting to sit down and carry on with the book, but I did persevere with it because I wanted to know how it turned out. The writing was beautiful and some of the descriptions really did make you feel like you were there. The ending seemed quite rushed and after 95% of the book being emotional and there not seeming like there would be a happy ending, the last few pages of the book seemed to solve everything quickly. It would have been nice to have a few more pages around that and questions answered around whether Aoife ever found out what happened to her daughter. Thank you to Esther and Pigeonhole for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gina Schwartz

    A difficult and painful read. This novel tells the story of three generations of women who are all searching to find something that is lost to them. Aoife has lost her daughter and is effectively silenced every time she mentions her name. It is only at her husband’s funeral that she can grieve properly. Rosaleen has lost the love that she though was hers has been tricked into giving up her baby and been told of her father’s part in it. Kate knows that something is missing and is searching for her A difficult and painful read. This novel tells the story of three generations of women who are all searching to find something that is lost to them. Aoife has lost her daughter and is effectively silenced every time she mentions her name. It is only at her husband’s funeral that she can grieve properly. Rosaleen has lost the love that she though was hers has been tricked into giving up her baby and been told of her father’s part in it. Kate knows that something is missing and is searching for her birth mother and for answers that will give her some closure. The novel is painful. Each of the women is deceived by someone sho they should be able to trust and the results are devastating. I found the novel difficult to read primarily due to it being so depressing but I must commend the author’s skill. The characters are well developed and beautiful. Rosaleen and Kate are like our girlfriends and Aoife’s despair is painful and palpable to the reader. Thank you to “The Pigeonhole” for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    On one level I Couldn’t Love You More is a story that’s been written many times. Three generations of women; each life adversely impacted by a man; the horror of what befell unmarried women who fell pregnant in the sixties, especially if they are Irish and Catholic. But this is not a book of well-trodden themes on repeat. Esther Freud has created a cast of totally believable characters and immerses the reader in the lives of Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate with such intensity that I couldn’t turn away On one level I Couldn’t Love You More is a story that’s been written many times. Three generations of women; each life adversely impacted by a man; the horror of what befell unmarried women who fell pregnant in the sixties, especially if they are Irish and Catholic. But this is not a book of well-trodden themes on repeat. Esther Freud has created a cast of totally believable characters and immerses the reader in the lives of Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate with such intensity that I couldn’t turn away, even when the story lines were heart-breaking. The structure of the book is intricate. There are no early explanations of how the characters are related; the thread of each woman’s story is interwoven with that of the others in such a way that it can feel confusing and disjointed, especially in the early chapters of the book. Past and present tense, first and third person narrators, chronologies which vary for each of the women - this may appear off-putting and certainly for me initially it was a little bewildering - but I was compelled to press on because the quality of the writing was so high and it was clear that everything would fall into place as I got to know the women and their lives. And it did. This was a superb read. Shocking in places, heart-breaking in others. Often it made me angry, not once did it feel unbelievable. All of which is testament to how strongly I identified with these women and their voices. The men too, are sharply drawn and I was thankful that within the cast of male characters there were a couple of decent ones because overall men do not come out well in this book. It is not a feelgood read but neither is it as bleak as it might seem. What shone out for me was the resilience of the women and the love they had to give. The end, when it came, was perhaps a little too easy. And I very much wanted to know more. But perhaps that’s the hallmark of a great novel. Throughout, Esther Freud has consistently accorded her readers respect and intelligence and as I reflect, already I can understand why she would not choose to spoon-feed us the final details. I Couldn’t Love You More is a book which will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Thank you to the author, publishers Bloomsbury and online book club Pigeonhole for the chance to read this for free. This is an honest and voluntary review. This story manages to combine being utterly heartbreaking while still remaining fundamentally hopeful. We follow three generations of women. Each facing challenges of living within the expectations of family and society, and having to make hard decisions as a result. Aoife had to send her child away at a very young age to keep her safe from the Thank you to the author, publishers Bloomsbury and online book club Pigeonhole for the chance to read this for free. This is an honest and voluntary review. This story manages to combine being utterly heartbreaking while still remaining fundamentally hopeful. We follow three generations of women. Each facing challenges of living within the expectations of family and society, and having to make hard decisions as a result. Aoife had to send her child away at a very young age to keep her safe from the dangers of war time in London. When Rosaleen returns home their relationship is difficult, and Cash, Rosaleen's father and Aoife's husband, has little patience for the wilful girl who keeps running away from the convent school she is then sent to board at. Rose falls in love with an artist, an older man she knows her parents won't approve of, but she's ready to make her life in London away from the rural Ireland her parents now farm. Kate loves her daughter and her husband, but Matt's drinking and late nights with his bandmates are putting pressure on the young family. A pressure which isn't helped by the lingering question of if she is adopted, then who and where is her birth mother. I know not everyone reads the blurb on the back of a book before they read it, but this is one where I think it really does help. Like a number of my fellow readers on Pigeonhole found it quite tricky to follow who was who at the beginning of this story, but re-reading the blurb helped keep the three main characters straight in my head. Rose and Kate are the stand outs of this story, Aoife only starts to come into her own towards the end, but I liked Rose and Kate from the start. While Rose starts off embracing an unconventional life, reality quickly catches up and she's forced into a situation she doesn't know how to get out of. Whereas Kate has a fairly typical life, and has to look at whether she wants to accept the sacrifices that go with that, or take the plunge and walk a different path. The story jumps through time, and works better when there are longer sections from a character than when it's taking shorter jumps between their stories. But, pay attention and you'll find impressive plotting and a story which does all pull together in the end.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I Couldn’t Love You More by Esther Freud is a wonderful, lush, moving book. It was a little hard to follow at first, but once I got into the rhythm it was hard to put it down. It tells the story of Aoife, her daughter Rosaleen and her daughter Kate. Aoife lives on a farm in Ireland with her husband Cash after having been the managers of a pub in London. Their daughter, Rosaleen goes off and is seduced by and falls in love with an artist, Felix, who gets her pregnant and after a stroke, abandons I Couldn’t Love You More by Esther Freud is a wonderful, lush, moving book. It was a little hard to follow at first, but once I got into the rhythm it was hard to put it down. It tells the story of Aoife, her daughter Rosaleen and her daughter Kate. Aoife lives on a farm in Ireland with her husband Cash after having been the managers of a pub in London. Their daughter, Rosaleen goes off and is seduced by and falls in love with an artist, Felix, who gets her pregnant and after a stroke, abandons her. Her fuller body is his muse and he sculpts her likeness for an upcoming gallery show. When he has a stroke, Rosaleen goes to the hospital and finds out that not only is he married but he has a son. With nowhere else to turn, Rosaleen goes to a convent where she will give birth and her baby be given up for adoption. This is a struggle as obviously sex and pregnancy outside of marriage is a sin so the nuns are not kind to the young women who have come there in their desperation. Rosaleen hopes to leave with her child but when she gives birth the child is adopted 10 days later. She names her child Isabelle Felicia after her own grandmother and Felix. Rosaleen writes to her father and he sends money so she can leave the convent but she knows she can never see her parents again. We meet Kate, Rosaleen’s daughter. She lives in London and has a young daughter of her own. She works with people with disabilities doing art projects; clearly the talent of her father has been passed down. Her husband Matt is an alcoholic and Kate decides to search for her birth mother. The rest of the story is the outcome. I felt that it has a slow buildup but was really good overall. It was a little tough getting to know the different characters. I think the beginning had years associated with the different chapters and that would have helped further along in the book. I received this ARC from #Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Haylins

    Esther Freud’s latest offering is a challenging book to read, not just because of its melancholy subject matter, but also because of its complex structure, which makes it difficult to get a foothold on both the story and its protagonists. Persevere though, push through the overwhelming miasma, and you’re rewarded with an intimate, immersive tale of love, loss, estrangement and regret. Set in Ireland and London, and spanning from WWII to present day, it’s the story of three generations of Kelly wo Esther Freud’s latest offering is a challenging book to read, not just because of its melancholy subject matter, but also because of its complex structure, which makes it difficult to get a foothold on both the story and its protagonists. Persevere though, push through the overwhelming miasma, and you’re rewarded with an intimate, immersive tale of love, loss, estrangement and regret. Set in Ireland and London, and spanning from WWII to present day, it’s the story of three generations of Kelly women — Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate — linked by blood but forced apart by the iron-clad fist of Catholicism. Freud shines a light on an Ireland subservient to the will and strictures of the Catholic Church. On a severe, patriarchal society, where men rule the roost and women are voiceless. Where desire is a sin and unwed motherhood an unforgivable, filthy stain. It is by and large a demoralizing and depressing read. The passages depicting the life of young girls in the Church’s notorious mother and baby homes are especially hard to stomach. But Freud is astute enough to weave into this darkness tiny moments of joy. Moments that, as a reader, you cling to in expectation of an upturn in the sombre mood of the narrative. This comes — eventually — but not until the closing pages, which are all the sweeter for being so longed for. As wretched as it is, this is a novel saved by two things: Freud’s poetic, intelligent prose, and her sublime characterization of the three female protagonists. I ached for each one, felt the cut of their personal pain: the hurt of rejection, of abandonment. Freud allows a tiny kernel of hope, however, and as this took root and grew, I prayed for an outcome that would justify my faith in the power of maternal love. She didn’t let me down.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Rogers

    While this book centers on three generations of women, I feel that the title refers to the men in their lives. When Rosaleen's lover tells her "I couldn't love you more," he seems to be telling her that his love for her is enormous. But what it really means is that he is incapable of loving her enough, he just can't. When she becomes pregnant, and he has a medical emergency that brings his wife, Rosaleen finds herself alone and unable to go home to her family. Years before, her mother, Aoife, fe While this book centers on three generations of women, I feel that the title refers to the men in their lives. When Rosaleen's lover tells her "I couldn't love you more," he seems to be telling her that his love for her is enormous. But what it really means is that he is incapable of loving her enough, he just can't. When she becomes pregnant, and he has a medical emergency that brings his wife, Rosaleen finds herself alone and unable to go home to her family. Years before, her mother, Aoife, fell for and married Cashel Kelly, a strong, romantic man, who never connected with his eldest daughter- he couldn't love her, and he wanted her erased from their lives. Rosaleen ends up in a home for unwed mothers run by sadistic nuns and, while she is determined to keep her baby, that isn't the way things work out (think of the movie Philomena from a few years back). The third woman in the story is Kate, who we know to be Rosaleen's daughter, grown up and in her own difficult marriage to an alcoholic. Again, he loves her, but is not able to love her, or their child, enough to stop drinking. Kate is longing for her lost mother and sees her in every woman she encounters. Adopted by a loving couple, she ultimately takes steps to find answers to the mystery of her birth. The novel is told in alternating chapters of each of the women, and often changes to first person. This is not a new story, but it is told in such an engaging way that it is a worthwhile read. I felt for each of these women and relationships with men who just couldn't love them more. Thanks to #netgalley for an advance reader e-book of this novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denyce

    This novel follows the fate of three generations of Irish women, mothers and daughters, set between London and Ireland in the 1960's. Aoife, married to the loud and brutish Cash, once publicans in London now farming back in Ireland. Aoife has a voice but isn't allowed to use it. Rosaleen, working in Fleet St, begins an affair with the brooding and married sculptor, Felix. She falls pregnant, is abandoned, subsequently loses her job and her flat and being unmarried, ends up in a Magdalene laundry This novel follows the fate of three generations of Irish women, mothers and daughters, set between London and Ireland in the 1960's. Aoife, married to the loud and brutish Cash, once publicans in London now farming back in Ireland. Aoife has a voice but isn't allowed to use it. Rosaleen, working in Fleet St, begins an affair with the brooding and married sculptor, Felix. She falls pregnant, is abandoned, subsequently loses her job and her flat and being unmarried, ends up in a Magdalene laundry, forced to give up her daughter. Kate lives in London with a young daughter and her alcoholic husband. She is forever searching for her mother, having been adopted, and sees her everywhere. This is a beautifully written novel but I found it difficult to follow at first. I kept having to remind myself which character I was reading about, and eventually wrote it down to make it less confusing. As the story progressed, I found it easier to follow but more difficult to read. The men in their lives have so much impact but in such a negative way that it makes for depressing reading. They each find their way of navigating their situations, but their lives are harsh and sometimes unforgiving, especially for Rosaleen. Having read about the Magdalene laundries before, the behaviour of the nuns was inevitable but no less shocking. Sisterhood, indeed. This part of the novel was poignant and full of sorrow. Touching and beautifully written, I was glad to have read this novel. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lori Sinsel Harris

    This story spans the years from WWII up till the 1960s. It is the story of three women and the trials they face bearing the burdens of unwanted pregnancies, illigitimate children and the rigid views of Catholicism. This book is researched impeccabily and the writing is poigent and beautiful. Telling the story of the anguish borne by these women, the loneliness and solitude they felt as society shunned them. This novel tells what it means to be a mother, wife, and daughter and it tells of family This story spans the years from WWII up till the 1960s. It is the story of three women and the trials they face bearing the burdens of unwanted pregnancies, illigitimate children and the rigid views of Catholicism. This book is researched impeccabily and the writing is poigent and beautiful. Telling the story of the anguish borne by these women, the loneliness and solitude they felt as society shunned them. This novel tells what it means to be a mother, wife, and daughter and it tells of family, lies and secrets kept. All woven intricately into one of the most heart-wrenching, emotional stories I have read lately. This may have hit really close to home for me, I was raised Cathoilic first of all, Catholic schools, the whole nine yards. Secondly, my mother was an unwed mother back in 1963 when it was still considered a disgrace and brought shame to the family. I am the end result of that pregnancy, so I feel deep empathy for these women and what they went through. This story is not new, it has been told for generations, but the manner in which Esther Freud delivers it is sadly beautiful and poetic. 5 stars, I strongly recommend for all fans of women's fiction. This would be a great book club read with plenty of issues to discuss. Thank you to the publishers at Ecco publishing and Net Galley for the free ARC copy of this novel, I am leaving my honest review in return.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fay Flude

    Actual rating 3.5. I think the synopsis you can read on the back of the book or on online encapsulates this story far better than I ever could because I found the timeline really confusing in places! It was as if the manuscript had been dropped and the pages shuffled together randomly to produce the same contents but completely out of order! Persevere though because the storyline does stop jumping around so frequently and the lives of these three women become clearer in their tragic connections. Fr Actual rating 3.5. I think the synopsis you can read on the back of the book or on online encapsulates this story far better than I ever could because I found the timeline really confusing in places! It was as if the manuscript had been dropped and the pages shuffled together randomly to produce the same contents but completely out of order! Persevere though because the storyline does stop jumping around so frequently and the lives of these three women become clearer in their tragic connections. From Irelabd to London and back and forth we learn about Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate. Neither have been fortunate in love and have endured emotional hardships that are heartbreakingly sad. Life has been tough as publicans and then farmers, married to the unforgiving Cashel Kelly. Of their three daughters we only really learn about Rosaleen, fallen from grace (although her family in Ireland don't really know do they?) and the appalling events that befall her when she arrives back in Ireland, naive and unsuspecting, at a Magdalene Laundry. As a piece of social history woven into fiction, I Couldn't Love You More, speaks powerfully of dreadful mistreatment, abuse and lack of care for pregnant unmarried women and portrays the heartbreak of having your baby taken away. The cruelty is invulnerable and at times extremely hard to read because whilst Rosaleen is a character there were many Rosaleens for whom this was a real lived traumatic experience. In London Kate has a daughter, but she is married. Not exactly a happy or healthy relationship though and through her sadness, lack of roots and struggle to make sense of where her life is going, Kate embarks upon a quest to find her both mother. Poignant and heartfelt and left open ended, this is an emotional exploration of the ties that bind us and what happens when those ties are mercilessly cut. Thanks to the author, publisher and the PH team for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    Such an emotional novel interweaving the stories of three generations of women. The timeframes were often hard to distinguish while reading, hence my 4 star review, but the language is beautiful and the stories of the 3 women and their harrowing experiences that lead to their separations is so breathtakingly painful. Dazzling Aoife finds herself pregnant during wartime and then having to make the awful decision to part from her child for her safety. When her daughter Rosaleen returns to the fami Such an emotional novel interweaving the stories of three generations of women. The timeframes were often hard to distinguish while reading, hence my 4 star review, but the language is beautiful and the stories of the 3 women and their harrowing experiences that lead to their separations is so breathtakingly painful. Dazzling Aoife finds herself pregnant during wartime and then having to make the awful decision to part from her child for her safety. When her daughter Rosaleen returns to the family postwar, she is frightened and detached, having never known her parents. The relationship between them remains distanced and when the family returns to Ireland from London when Rosaleen is 17years, she decides to remain in London and strikes up an affair with a famous artist. Rosaleen finds herself young, unmarried and pregnant and gives birth in a home for unmarried women run by nuns, akin to the infamous Magdeline laundries. Her daughter is given up for adoption. Her daughter, Kate, finds herself in an unhappy marriage, mother to young Freya, and despite a loving adoption, yearns to know more about her past, her birth name and biological mother. The stories of the three women are so beguiling, especially that of Rosaleen. I loved the stories. Just persevere with the timelines and initial confusion to get to the heart of this book. It was worth reading on. Thank you to Pigeonhole and Esther for the opportunity to read and review honestly.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lyndi

    This story, told in the alternating voices of three generations of Kelly women, tells the hardship and heartbreak of marriage and motherhood. Aoife Kelly runs a tavern in London with controlling husband Cash. They want a good education for their girls so they move to Ireland to run a farm and send the girls to Catholic boarding school. Rosaleen escapes back to London as soon as possible to stay with family and start her new job and an affair with a much older man. Felix, a married man and broodi This story, told in the alternating voices of three generations of Kelly women, tells the hardship and heartbreak of marriage and motherhood. Aoife Kelly runs a tavern in London with controlling husband Cash. They want a good education for their girls so they move to Ireland to run a farm and send the girls to Catholic boarding school. Rosaleen escapes back to London as soon as possible to stay with family and start her new job and an affair with a much older man. Felix, a married man and brooding artist, at first appears happy with Rosaleen's unexpected pregnancy, but when tragedy strikes, he abandons her and she is left with no home, no job, and afraid to return home to her strict Catholic family. She goes to a Catholic mother and baby home, not realizing she would be forced to give up her child. Kate is in a troubled marriage to an alcoholic. She has struggled with her identity ever since her parents told her she was adopted. She decides to try and find her birth mother and faces a hard struggle with the Catholic facility to find out the truth. I had a little trouble at first with the many characters described by each woman, but then the story just started to flow. I could really understand the emotions of each woman and the struggle they faced. Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the opportunity to read this book. I received an advance reader copy of this book and my review is given voluntarily

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    If you like convoluted depressing novels, this is one for you. Hard to rate by stars. First third would be 1 star, middle would be 2-3 stars and last part would be 4 stars. I agree with other reviewers, the first 1/3rd is very confusing. There’s too many points-of-view, even switching within the same chapter from 3rd person to 1st person. Time periods also seem to switch both between and within chapters. Character names without explanations of who they are and they barely show up later.Its very h If you like convoluted depressing novels, this is one for you. Hard to rate by stars. First third would be 1 star, middle would be 2-3 stars and last part would be 4 stars. I agree with other reviewers, the first 1/3rd is very confusing. There’s too many points-of-view, even switching within the same chapter from 3rd person to 1st person. Time periods also seem to switch both between and within chapters. Character names without explanations of who they are and they barely show up later.Its very hard to follow. Second 3rd didn’t keep my interest. I could have set it down and not come back. It was mundane. Teenage pregnancy, jerk husbands…ok, but why do I care about THESE specific characters, who were so confusingly portrayed in the first 3rd of the book? Last third was more straight-forward and had more emotional ups and downs. Get tissues ready. I know some people like depressing books, so they might like this one, if they can get through the first half of the book. Pacing is haphazard, stilted at times and other times I had to re-read paragraphs to figure out what happened. Themes are loss, loss and redemption. It was similar to watching layers of watercolor, slowly, slowly being added and you remain confused about the picture for a while. If you are able to be patient and re-read paragraphs, and you like using tissues when you read…go for it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Star

    **3.5 stars** Spanning 3 generations and time between WWII to 1960, this book is a story about living within the strictures imposed by religion and society, and what happens to those who were non-conformists. Through the interwoven stories, we explore the confinements of the patriarchal society, of abusive and often times co-dependent relationships - themselves toxic and contaminating, of the rigid views of the Catholic Church and its treatment of unmarried young female who came into their care, h **3.5 stars** Spanning 3 generations and time between WWII to 1960, this book is a story about living within the strictures imposed by religion and society, and what happens to those who were non-conformists. Through the interwoven stories, we explore the confinements of the patriarchal society, of abusive and often times co-dependent relationships - themselves toxic and contaminating, of the rigid views of the Catholic Church and its treatment of unmarried young female who came into their care, having ended up with unplanned pregnancies and suffered abandonment by their own families. Unwedded mothers are sent to the convent to hide them from public eyes. After giving birth, the convent would arrange to have the babies adopted without much choice. The mothers are kept in the convent as forced labours until their debts are paid off. Appallingly, these women were shunned, vilified and dehumanised at the time when they needed support the most. Most often the male family members or partners whom the girls trusted and relied on were the most callous and unimpassioned. It was an emotional and harrowing journey; a sad and melancholic immersive story of loss and found.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Wild

    The story of three interconnected generations of women set in Ireland and London beginning during WWII and taking the reader up to the present day. This is a beautifully written and moving tale. I was a little confused at first as there are several different characters and the timeline skips about without warning. It needs some concentration. However, once I got used to the writing style, I found myself immersed in the lives of these three women - Aoife, one time pub landlady, then farmer’s wife The story of three interconnected generations of women set in Ireland and London beginning during WWII and taking the reader up to the present day. This is a beautifully written and moving tale. I was a little confused at first as there are several different characters and the timeline skips about without warning. It needs some concentration. However, once I got used to the writing style, I found myself immersed in the lives of these three women - Aoife, one time pub landlady, then farmer’s wife, her daughter, Rosaleen, who becomes pregnant by a married man and then there’s Kate who is searching for her biological mother and ‘sees’ her everywhere. It delves into family relationships, particularly motherhood. Some of the story is quite harrowing. The treatment of unmarried mothers in the care of nuns within the Catholic church is heartbreaking. It beggars belief. I am so glad that women now have more choices. It’s not all tragedy and sadness, though, as there is more to it than that and it’s left on a note of hope which brought a tear to my eye. An enjoyable and thought provoking read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    It’s kind of hard to love I Couldn’t Love You More. The premise is good, but the execution falters in several ways. The story is told by three generations of women, Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, from the same family, all of whom fall in love with a man they shouldn’t. While the three different point of views provide perspective, they also tend to feel disruptive. The story also alternates back in forth between first and third person perspectives and slips back and forth in time within several of the It’s kind of hard to love I Couldn’t Love You More. The premise is good, but the execution falters in several ways. The story is told by three generations of women, Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, from the same family, all of whom fall in love with a man they shouldn’t. While the three different point of views provide perspective, they also tend to feel disruptive. The story also alternates back in forth between first and third person perspectives and slips back and forth in time within several of the POVs, which makes it difficult to follow. There’s also very little context and transition provided, making the life transitions of the women feel abrupt and disconnected. The writing is atmospheric and romantic, and this could be a good story about how the daughters are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the mother, but can find happiness if they’re willing to walk away. The reader has to work too hard to find that narrative in a story that meanders when it shouldn’t, doesn’t fill in the gaps when it should, and focuses the story on characters that are slow to learn how to make the right choices for themselves – if they ever do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kim Russell

    I have just finished reading I Couldn’t Love You More stave by stave with The Pigeonhole. At first, I found it difficult to get into the rhythm of the book but, thankfully, I persevered, which then became fell in love, with this astonishing novel, and now, as happens with all those books that capture your imagination and heart, I am sad that it has come to an end. The stories of three women, Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, written in different times and places, and from different points of view, take I have just finished reading I Couldn’t Love You More stave by stave with The Pigeonhole. At first, I found it difficult to get into the rhythm of the book but, thankfully, I persevered, which then became fell in love, with this astonishing novel, and now, as happens with all those books that capture your imagination and heart, I am sad that it has come to an end. The stories of three women, Aoife, Rosaleen and Kate, written in different times and places, and from different points of view, take us on difficult journeys, sometimes they are joyful, but much of the time heart-breaking. Having lived in Ireland and given birth to a daughter at the beginning of the eighties, and having lived in London with Irish friends, I felt I knew these women, understood their lives, and sometimes found myself willing them to ‘do the right thing’, which they inevitably and thankfully didn’t, or it would have been a different story altogether. There are some shocking scenes, which made me so angry I almost screamed, but there are also tender moments that made me cry.

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