Some of you may be familiar with Tessa Hadley from her critically acclaimed novels or because you've read her short stories in The New Yorker. I, however, had never read her work until now. Her latest collection, Married Love and Other Stories has made me a fan, and I plan to explore her backlist.
Here's the publisher's summary.
Married Love is a masterful collection of short fiction from one of today’s most accomplished storytellers. These tales showcase the qualities for which Tessa Hadley has long been praised: her humor, warmth, and psychological acuity; her powerful, precise, and emotionally dense prose; her unflinching examinations of family relationships. Here are stories that range widely across generations and classes, exploring the private and public lives of unforgettable characters: a young girl who haunts the edges of her parents’ party; a wife released by the sudden death of her film-director husband; an eighteen-year-old who insists on marrying her music professor, only to find herself shut out from his secrets. In this stunning collection, Hadley evokes worlds that expand in the imagination far beyond the pages, capturing domestic dramas, generational sagas, wrenching love affairs and epiphanies, and distilling them to remarkable effect.Most of the stories in Married Love look at modern relationships--within families, marriages, and friendships--and how they become warped and changed through time. On the surface, Hadley writes about everyday scenarios, such as families in conflict, social class divisions, and old friends meeting after many years apart. But Hadley gives these situations a unique slant, digging just a bit deeper to find a darker, hidden layer.
The stories that resonated with me most were those in which Hadley carried the plot into the future, past the initial turning point, allowing us to see the effect of time on the characters. For example, in the title story, Hadley doesn't leave us in the early days of the marriage between student and teacher. She skips through the years so we get a glimpse of a harried mother of three who has lost the spunk of her youth. In "Post Production," we return to the family on the anniversary of the film director's death to learn that even from the grave, he is a binding force.
Hadley's writing is both simple and thoughtful, and I found myself rereading paragraphs just to fully absorb her words. The following passage is one of many that stuck with me. The quote is from the story "The Trojan Prince," which is about a teenage boy who missed the Great War and has decided to test himself by going to sea. Here the crew is forced to abandon ship during a storm:
When it's his turn, apprentice James McIlvanney can't get rid of the idea that everything is happening in a story, to someone else whose role he seems to be carrying off convincingly. To his relief it turns out that this someone is not a coward: he's resourceful and determined and strong enough. Here he is, swinging above the terrible sucking water, above his certain death if he falls in. (p. 67)And another from the opening page of the title story, "Married Love":
The kitchen in that house was upstairs, its windows overlooking the garden below. It was a tall, thin, old house comfortably untidy, worn to fit the shape of the family. The summer morning was rainy, so all the lights were on, the atmosphere close and dreamy, perfumed with toast and coffee. (p. 1)The Harper Perennial edition of Married Love and Other Stories will be in stores next week. Tessa Hadley will appeal to readers who like character-driven stories that offer a fresh perspective on familiar themes.
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Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2012