Liberty

Esther Freud

When my mother was young she used to wear a Liberty Bodice. It was tight and itchy and was to be worn whatever the weather, whatever her complaints.  She was at a convent, and the idea was that somehow the Liberty Bodice would keep her safe, and chaste.  The Emancipation Bodice some called it, a reminder it had been designed to liberate women from the heavily boned and firmly laced corsets that had once been in fashion.  But my mother didn’t want to be safe, or chaste. It was the tail end of the 1950’s, and she wanted to escape.  As soon as she could she left her convent, left Ireland, left her family.   Not long after she met my father in a club in Soho and by the time she was twenty she had two children, a name she’d changed herself, and her grandmother’s wedding ring, to ward off hostility.   But one afternoon as she waited at a bus stop with her toddler and a new baby in a pram, she was spotted by an acquaintance of her parents.   Within a week she had a letter. ‘You’ve made your bed and now you must lie on it.’  But at least they didn’t send anyone from the church to take away her babies, or lock her away with the Magdalena Sisters, as she’d feared.  And she was free, to make her bed, to lie on it, or if she chose - to take her Liberty Bodice, or her bra for that matter, and throw it on the fire.

 

Esther Freud trained as an actress before writing her first novel Hideous Kinky, published in 1991. Hideous Kinky was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was made into a film starring Kate Winslet.  She has since written six other novels, including The Sea House and Love Falls.  She also writes stories, articles and travel pieces for newspapers and magazines, and teaches creative writing, in her own local group and at the Faber Academy. Her most recent book, Lucky Break, was published in April 2011.  She lives in London with her husband and three children.  

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