I Couldn’t Love You More

Written by Esther Freud
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

I Couldn’t Love You More is a stirring portrayal of motherly love and familial and institutional abuse through the eyes of three generations of Irishwomen, whose sufferings are rendered in haunting, lyrical prose.

The novel begins in 1991, at a convent close to Cork City, where Kate, adopted at birth, has come to discover the identity of her birth mother—but is instead evicted. From Kate, the story moves to Aoife, as she sits at her husband’s deathbed and recounts the couple’s long marriage, which took them from rural Ireland to East London and back again after World War II. The third strand in the narrative is devoted to her daughter Rosaleen who, after returning to London in 1959, falls in love with a charming, but damaged, older German-Jewish artist. Haunted by her convent school childhood, Rosaleen enjoys life at Felix’s side until she realizes she is pregnant. When Felix fails her, and she loses her home and her job, she delivers herself into the hands of the Catholic Church. She is sent to one of the infamous Irish ‘Magdalene Laundries,’ where she is exposed to unimaginable cruelty. But since a conspiracy of silence exists in regard to these institutions, and any appeal for help goes unheeded, Rosaleen has no other recourse than to submit to her abusers and face her destiny as a single mother.

In the end, it turns out that both Aoife and Kate are searching for Rosaleen. While each independently assembles the pieces of the puzzle that led to her disappearance, the question as to why she is missing will finally be answered, providing a painful twist to an already complex web of hurtful lies and betrayals. A masterpiece.