Cynthia Freeman, who came to writing late in life and explored her Jewish heritage in a series of novels that included “A World Full of Strangers” and “Come Pour the Wine,” has died.
She was 73 and died of cancer at UC Medical Center in San Francisco on Saturday.
Miss Freeman, whose full name was Beatrice Cynthia Freeman Feinberg, wrote her first novel “A World Full of Strangers” when she was 50. That was 32 years after she had married her grandmother’s doctor, lived the life of a physicians’s wife while raising a family, and then, tiring of that, became an interior decorator.
A lengthy and successful career in decorating ended when she was stricken with a rare intestinal disorder that incapacitated her for several years. When she recovered, she felt she no longer was up to the physical demands of decorating and turned to her $37 portable typewriter.
“Strangers,” which relates the story of a Jew from New York’s Lower East Side who goes to extreme lengths to conceal his ethnic background, was based on a story that Miss Freeman had conceived 20 years earlier. She began it at 50 and saw it published when she was 55.
Rebellious as a youth, she had persuaded her parents to let her abandon formal education in the sixth grade.
“I was just totally bored,” she told The Times in a 1986 interview. “My mother, a well-educated English lady, realized what I needed. I had a tutor and my mother gave me a lot of her time. I was reading Shakespeare at 11.”
Four years later, she attended UC Berkeley, auditing classes that interested her.
“I didn’t register but I took every course I wanted and I got a very liberal education for free,” she said.
Her novels included “Portraits,” “Fairy Tales,” “Days of Winter,” “No Time for Tears” and “The Last Princess.”
“The Last Princess,” her final novel, will be published in paperback in the spring.
She also was credited with the popular quote: “Don’t worry about life after death; worry about life after breakfast.”
Her nine novels have sold more than 20 million copies and have been translated into 33 languages. But her success was tempered by tragedy. Her husband developed Alzheimer’s disease and died in 1982. A daughter was killed in an automobile accident in 1985. She is survived by her father and a son.