Spread over more than 9 decades, Small Freedoms is the family saga of a Dutch Burgher family from Ceylon, and takes the reader from Ceylon to Madras in India, to England and Australia. The story moves through the gracious living of colonial times in the tropics, to the soul destroying life in colder places, in a world of dashed dreams and faceless people, where reflections of yesterday are hard to see in the tarnished mirrors of the family’s lives.
Georgie, the principle character is the 3rd daughter to be born into the well to do Whittensledger family. In the first chapter, set in London in 2005, she is murdered. The perpetrator is somebody she knows, but the reader doesn’t find out who it is until the pen-ultimate chapter. To find out who Georgie was and who would kill a 90 year old woman, the book goes back to 1914, the year before Georgie was born, and then travels forward, weaving together the fabric of this dysfunctional family’s characters.
At the age of 13, Georgie falls in love with her eldest sister’s fiancé, Voan. He rapes her, just a few day days before his marriage to her sister Eddy, and drags himself out of his world with Eddy and into Georgie’s, forever. Much to Georgie’s surprise, she finds out that she is pregnant. Her father does not want to know the name of the person who has made her pregnant, for fear of killing him, and makes a decision that is to change the course of everybody’s lives, forever. He sends her off to Madras to have the baby, accompanied by Eddy and Voan. The baby boy, named Dennis, is registered as the son of Voan and Eddy, and goes through most of his life unaware that Georgie is his biological mother.
George forces his daughter Georgie into a loveless marriage, which remains unconsummated until its dissolution many years later. Her husband, Lloyd is a womaniser, and makes his friend’s young daughter pregnant. He convinces Georgie to adopt the child, without telling her that he is the child’s father. They call her Penelope.
Georgie’s other sister, Charlie, marries the man she wants, but starts to develop signs of Munchausen’s Syndrome soon after the birth of her first child. She makes life very difficult for her daughter, Rochelle, who leaves home at fifteen, and is not heard from again.
George has a stroke brought on by Georgie telling him that Voan is Dennis’ father. He dies, leaving Emma to validate her own life without him. The wealth built up by George has been eroded by Voan. Eddy and Georgie’s homes are sold, and everyone moves in together into the family home. Georgie and Voan start a real love affair, condoned by Emma. The charmed life, now over, and Ceylon’s independence means the Burghers are no longer the favoured few. Charlie and her family had left to settle in Australia in 1951. Plans are now made for the rest of the family to move in their own directions, where, not being adroit at standing alone, they will stumble into the slipstream of life, and lose themselves, just trying to live in those worlds.
Georgie goes through her life, a lost soul in search of a requiem, Voan, the face imprinted on her heart, the silent voice in her head. That is until, at the age of 48, in London she meets Lewis, 13 years her junior, and falls passionately in love with him. When he finds somebody a lot younger than himself to be passionate with, Georgie rebuilds the bridges she had burned, and turns back to Voan.
Eddy dies. Georgie travels to Australia and marries Voan, but the memory of Lewis is forever in the way. Love and life with Voan is unlike the dream she had forgotten to forget. After Voan’s death, Georgie goes back to London, and lives in a state of suspended animation. Her senile dementia develops, and in her mind, she has the love affair of her life with her young priest.
Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!
I have decided to omit the last 2 chapters in this synopsis!
That would give the whole game away!
Will castigate myself if necessary!