Tessa Hadley is one of those writers who is quite well known in the UK, but when I lived in Canada I’d never heard of her. For that reason alone, I was interested in reading The Past. But it also has that age-old story strain that I fall for every time: family gets together at summer home to make a decision.
The Past is a very quiet and subtle novel. Not a lot happens. Really, it is about the quotidian affairs of a family on holidays in Southern England. But it is because of that that small events come to take on greater importance than they otherwise would. A brother – predictably – shows up late with his new wife. A sister’s step-son behaves badly. That sort of thing.
I can honestly say that I’m not sure if I will read Hadley again. The reason this book worked for me is because of the setting, but when I look at her other works they don’t grab me the same way. That being said, I’d still put Hadley in the ‘very good writer category’ because that is what she is. I’m just not sure it is my style of writing. There’s something about it that’s very domestic, even, dare i say, womanly.
Who would like this book? I’m going to go out on a limb here and compare Hadley to Alice Munro. I know Munro is a good writer, but i can’t get all rapturous about her the way some people do. I’ll read her,but I don’t always enjoy her. Both writers deal with everyday life, the domestic and women’s thoughts and feelings.