Anthony Quinn ( was born in Liverpool in 1964. From 1998 to 2014 he was the film critic of the Independent. He is the author of four very successful novels: The Rescue Man, which won the 2009 Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, Half of the Human Race, The Streets, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Walter Scott Prize, and Curtain Call, which was chosen for Waterstones and Mail on Sunday Book Clubs.

His latest novel, Freya, centres on two friends, Freya Wyley (whom we first met as a rebellious 12-year-old in his fourth novel, Curtain Call) and Nancy Holdaway. The action moves quickly from VE Day 1945, through Oxford (where both women go to university), post-war London (where Freya establishes herself as a journalist, and aspiring novelist Nancy works for a publisher) and then on into the early 1960s. Big issues of the century – feminism, homosexuality, immigration, the individual versus society are all at play here.

While Curtain Call invoked the Golden Age mysteries of Agatha Christie – the story was structured around the question of who was the tie-pin killer – Freya is much more a study in character. Quinn makes the reader love Freya, whom Nancy takes as the inspiration for the character Stella in her own published novel “The Hours and Times” – “none would ever forget her, so thrumming with life was the portrayal”. We follow her career from Oxford – where she is seen as nothing more than “a skirt with a library book” – to reporter and feature writer on national newspapers, where she specialises in penning witty portraits of the demi-monde of London. Throughout, Quinn is the master of stylish and carefully honed prose. For example, a pair of ice cream cones bought by Nancy for the purpose of lifting Freya’s spirits is described as “torches to light their way”. The sight of something in the sky – which turns out to be a hawk – is “a faint dark flake, like a screw of charred paper rising from a bonfire.”

The friendship between Freya and Nancy is explored in all its many nuances, from the initial heady thrill of first meeting, through sexual, emotional and professional rivalries, to the sting of betrayal, and the soft tenderness of reconciliation and forgiveness. The two women also share a bond of childlessness – while Nancy and her husband cannot have any, Freya finds herself pregnant by an estranged Italian lover and then loses the baby.

The cast of accompanying characters – which includes an ambitious writer turned Labour politician, a playwright with sado-masochistic tendencies, a vulnerable teenage model and a homosexual photographer who seems to have been inspired by John Deakin – are all equally vivid. Immerse yourself in this story of friendship and love, truth and honesty, loyalty and betrayal. It ranges across all these personal issues plus delivers a compelling portrait of post- war Britain. I think you might enjoy it.

Enquire at your local library or consult  for full bibliographic detail.


464 pages in Jonathan Cape

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1910702505



Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn

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