The Past

Tessa Hadley ( is the author of five highly praised novels, Accidents in the Home, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, Everything Will Be All Right, The Master Bedroom, The London Train and Clever Girl. She has also written two collections of stories, Sunstroke and Married Love. She lives in London and is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker and other magazines.

The Past is Hadley’s latest novel. Three adult sisters and their brother meet up at their grandparents’ country home for their annual family holiday of three long, hot summer weeks. The beloved but crumbling house is full of memories of their childhood – of when their mother took them to stay with her parents when she left their father. This summer in the house, however, could be their last. It may have to be sold. Furthermore, under the idyllic pastoral surface, there are tensions.

Alice has brought Kasim, the 20-year-old son of her ex-boyfriend, and he makes plans to seduce the quiet Molly, Roland’s 16-year-old daughter. Fran’s young children uncover an ugly secret in a ruined cottage in the woods, and observe the growing flirtation. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, blasting the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister. Roland has come with his new (third) wife, whom his sisters don’t like…or do they? A way of life – bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican – winds down to its inevitable end: which is a loss, and a release. It’s all a bit much over one’s Borders Chocolate Ginger and coffee.
If it’s not too upsetting, though, observe the precision and  sympathy with which Hadley charts the squalls of lust and envy disrupting this ill-assorted house party. Also, the consolations of memory and affection, the beauty of the natural world, the shifting of history under the social surface. On completion I think you may admire some writerly skill here.

Enquire at your local library or consult  for full bibliographic detail.


368 pages in Jonathan Cape

First published 2015

ISBN   978-0224101691



Tessa Hadley

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