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Haunted by phantoms of World War II and the Holocaust, young Cressida lives in terror of George Harding, who, severely disfigured, has returned from the front to recover on his family’s African estate. When Harding plucks young Cressida’s beautiful mother and family from financial ruin, establishing them in the old servants’ quarters, Cressida is swept into a life inexorably bound to his.

In her new setting, she is conscripted to enliven Harding’s nephew, the hopelessly timid Edgar, to make him “wild and daring.” She takes on this task with resentful fury, leading the boy astray and, in the process, learning to manipulate the disparities of power, class, and ambition. All the while, Harding himself is watching her. And waiting.

The Servants’ Quarters, a complex and sophisticated love story, evokes a vanishing world of privilege with a Pygmalion twist. It is, as Amy Tan said, “Freed’s best novel yet.”

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