The Past, Hardback
2 out of 5 (1 rating)


"There is something reassuring yet deliciously unexpected about a Tessa Hadley novel." (Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph).

Over five novels and two collections of stories Tessa Hadley has earned a reputation as a fiction writer of remarkable gifts, and been compared with Elizabeth Bowen and Alice Munro.

In her new novel three sisters and a brother meet up in their grandparents' old house for three long, hot summer weeks.

The house is full of memories of their childhood and their past - their mother took them there when she left their father - but now they may have to sell it. And under the idyllic surface, there are tensions. Roland has come with his new wife and his sisters don't like her.

Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice's ex-boyfriend, makes plans to seduce Molly, Roland's teenage daughter.

Fran's children uncover an ugly secret in a ruined cottage in the woods.

Passion erupts where it's least expected, blasting the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the oldest sister.

A way of life - bourgeois, literate, ritualised - winds down to its inevitable end. With uncanny precision and extraordinary sympathy, Tessa Hadley charts the squalls of lust and envy disrupting this ill-assorted house party, as well as the consolations of memory and affection, the beauty of the natural world, the shifting of history under the social surface.

From the first page the reader is absorbed and enthralled, watching a superb craftsman at work.




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I tried and failed to engage with the very literary style of this book. This is my first Tessa Hadley book and so I didn't know what to expect. Being a story about a family meeting up for 3 weeks at their grandparents' former home I thought it might provide me with a heady saga of family tensions. That may, in fact, be what it is but I couldn't quite get past a group of characters that I felt nothing for and a storyline that went nowhere. This is also one of those books with no speech marks, just dashes. I don't particularly mind this but in this case I found it difficult sometimes to work out whether speech was continuing or not. I'm afraid this was a book I was glad to finish.

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