Publication date: January 5, 2016
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
“An exquisite writer, a writer’s writer, with a fine eye for detail and a way of crafting sentences that make you stop and inhale . . . Hadley should be a bestseller rather than literary fiction’s best kept secret.”—The Times (London)
Three sisters and a brother, complete with children, a new wife, and an ex-boyfriend’s son, descend on their grandparents’ dilapidated old home in the Somerset countryside for a final summer holiday, where simmering tensions and secrets rise to the surface over three long, hot weeks.The house is full of memories of their childhood and their past—their mother took them there to live when she left their father—but now, they may have to sell it. And beneath the idyllic pastoral surface lie tensions.
Sophisticated and sleek, Roland’s new wife (his third) arouses his sisters’ jealousies and insecurities. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, becomes enchanted with Molly, Roland’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Fran’s young children make an unsettling discovery in an abandoned cottage in the woods that shatters their innocence. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, leveling the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister. As the family’s stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of life—bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican—winds down to its inevitable end.
Over five novels and two collections of stories, Tessa Hadley has earned a reputation as a fiction writer of remarkable gifts. She brings all of her considerable skill to The Past, a work of breathtaking scope and beauty—her most ambitious and accomplished novel yet.
My Take:The Past by Tessa Hadley is one of those books that is very difficult to describe without making it sound more or less than it is. It is a distinctly British novel which manages to slow down time and indulge in a slow, languorous episode in the life of this family.
The four adult siblings have agreed to spend a few weeks at the old family home because they all know that the sensible thing to do is sell the place. Despite reluctance to take the plunge, they are indulging in one last family summer holiday before making the final decision.
I found the characters to be interesting and complicated. I hate to go into too much detail about each of them really, because I enjoyed so much getting to know each of them. Roland and his third wife Pilar and his teenage daughter Molly; Alice and the 20 year old son of a former lover, Kasim; Fran and her two children, Ivy and Arthur; and Harriet make up the family group. That there will be at least a summer flirtation between Kasim and Molly is quite apparent from the moment they both occupy the same room. There are several other interesting developments over the course of their vacation which propel the story.
There is a much appreciated break in the novel right in the middle, which gives a glimpse at the life of the siblings young mother during a trying time. I found it refreshing to get to see the siblings as children and see a small piece of their mother's life. This short episode also brings things back around to help show how the past is always with us.
Even more than the plot, I enjoyed the writing - the descriptions of the countryside, the houses, gardens and people all sparked my imagination and brought the quiet countryside to life for me. I enjoyed the pleasant, leisurely pace of the novel and appreciated the chance to read without feeling the need to race to the end of the book.
I think that The Past would appeal to anyone who enjoys literary fiction, novels about families and British literature. I suspect that this is one novel that will be hard to get out of my head. I know several friends who will be vying for a chance to read my copy of the book.
About Tessa HadleyTessa Hadley is the author of five highly praised novels: Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award; Everything Will Be All Right; The Master Bedroom; The London Train, which was a New York TimesNotable Book; and Clever Girl. She is also the author of two short story collections,Sunstroke and Married Love, which were New York Times Notable Books as well. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker. She lives in London.
Tessa’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, January 5th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, January 6th: BookNAround
Thursday, January 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, January 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, January 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, January 13th: Bibliotica
Thursday, January 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Friday, January 15th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Monday, January 18th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, January 19th: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, January 20th: Curling Up by the Fire
Thursday, January 21st: From the TBR Pile
Friday, January 22nd: A Book Geek
Monday, January 25th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, January 26th: Dreams, Etc.