Gillian Freeman Biography
Gillian Freeman Comments:
I have always been concerned with the problems of the individual seen in relation to society and the personal pressures brought to bear because of moral, political or social conditions and the inability to conform. This is reflected in all my work to date, although I have never set out to propound themes, only to tell stories. After 12 novels I am able to make my own retrospective assessment, and I find recurring ideas and links of which I was unconscious at the time of writing.
My first six novels are in some way concerned with the class system in England, either as a main theme (The Liberty Man, Jack Would Be a Gentleman) or as part of the background (The Leather Boys). Although the rigid class patterns began to break up soon after the last war and have changed and shifted, they still remain subtle delineations that I find absorbing. In The Liberty Man there is the direct class confrontation in the love-affair between the middle-class school teacher and the cockney sailor. In Fall of Innocence I was writing about the sexual taboos of the middle class attacked by an outsider, a young American girl. This element, the planting of an alien into a tight social structure, reappears constantly in my novels—atheist Harry into the Church of England parish in The Campaign; the Prossers in Jack Would Be a Gentleman from one class area into an elevated one in the same town; the cross-visiting of Freda and Derek in The Liberty Man; strongest of all, Hannah in The Alabaster Egg, transplanted from Munich of the 1930s to postwar London. This is the theme pursued in The Marriage Machine, with Marion, from rural England, unable to adapt completely to life in the United States and battling against her-in-laws (also uprooted from Europe) for the mind of her young son. In Jack Would Be a Gentleman the theme is the sudden acquisition of money without the middle-or upper-class conditioning which makes it possible to deal with it. The Campaign has the background of a seedy seaside parish, against which the personal problems of a cross-section of individuals (all involved in a fund-raising campaign) are exacerbated; God and Mammon, the permissive society, the Christian ethics. The Leather Boys is the story of two working-class boys who have a homosexual affair; The Leader explores fascism in a modern democracy, which, on both sides of the Atlantic, throws up a sufficient number of people who are greedy, ruthless, intolerant, bigoted and perverted enough to gravitate towards the extreme right. In Nazi Lady the socially climbing heroine, Elisabeth, records in her diary her joy in meeting Hitler. in The Alabaster Egg, which I consider my best work to date, Hannah also meets Hitler and there is another fictitious diary, an historical memoir of a lover of Ludwig II. This earlier novel contains several of my recurring themes—fascism, homosexuality, the main characters all victims of the prevailing political scenes. There are parallels between Hitler's Germany and Bismarck's reflecting in two love affairs which end in betrayal. I used real as well as imaginary characters, linking fiction and reality closely, and did so, too, in Nazi Lady. An Easter Egg Hunt is concerned with the disappearance of a schoolgirl during Word War I—another character wrenched from her normal environment, a refugee from France now living in England's Lake District where the war harshly changes the lives of the four main protagonists. Love Child, in the psychological thriller genre, is about the problem of surrogate motherhood in both England and the United States. Once more, the heroine, feckless and easygoing Gwen, is thrust into a new society. In Termination Rock the narrator, Joanna, finds herself with an alter ego, Victorian Ann, the two stories paralleled as both of them travel to and in America. Whether Joanna's journey is into the paranormal or whether there is a psychological and logical explanation, is for the reader to decide. This novel, with its double time scale, has links with both The Alabaster Egg and The Marriage Machine, and also continues my fascination with the United States. The Marriage Machine, Love Child, and Termination Rock, in different ways and in different periods, deal with the adaptation to life in North America.
My choice of Einstein for a children's biography—a highly individual man whose life was spent in trying to eliminate the frontiers of prejudice—and the thesis of The Undergrowth of Literature (the need for fantasy in the sexually disturbed) illustrate my interest in and compassion for those unable to conform to the accepted social mores. To some extent my film writing has also dealt with social and sexual distress, as did my short play for The National Theatre, Pursuit. The ballet scenarios for Kenneth MacMillan, although the subjects were not selected by me, again present individuals who are "outsiders"—Prince Rudolf in Mayerling and the strong, passionate and wayward Isadora Duncan.
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