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The Past
by Tessa Hadley


Overview -

Winner of the Windham Campbell Prize A Washington Post Best Book of the Year A Time Best Book of the Year A San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Book of the Year A Huffington Post Best Fiction Book of the Year A New York Times Editors Choice

In her most accessible, commercial novel yet, the supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence ( New York Times Book Review ) turns her astute eye to a dramatic family reunion, where simmering tensions and secrets come to a head over three long, hot summer weeks.  Read more...


 
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Overview

Winner of the Windham Campbell Prize A Washington Post Best Book of the Year A Time Best Book of the Year A San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Book of the Year A Huffington Post Best Fiction Book of the Year A New York Times Editors Choice

In her most accessible, commercial novel yet, the supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence (New York Times Book Review) turns her astute eye to a dramatic family reunion, where simmering tensions and secrets come to a head over three long, hot summer weeks.

With 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 and an irresistible setup to The Past, a novel in which three sisters, a brother, and their children assemble at their country house.

These three weeks may be their last time there; the upkeep is prohibitive, and they may be forced to sell this beloved house filled with memories of their shared past (their mother took them there to live when she left their father). Yet beneath the idyllic pastoral surface, hidden passions, devastating secrets, and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them.

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 a dilapidated 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.

Over the course of this summer holiday, 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.

With subtle precision and deep compassion, Tessa Hadley brilliantly evokes a brewing storm of lust and envy, the indelible connections of memory and affection, the fierce, nostalgic beauty of the natural world, and the shifting currents of history running beneath the surface of these seemingly steady lives. The result is a novel of breathtaking skill and scope that showcases this major writer s extraordinary talents.

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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062270412
  • ISBN-10: 0062270419
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publish Date: January 2016
  • Page Count: 311
  • Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Psychological

 
BookPage Reviews

A family's secrets come to light

Tessa Hadley is an alchemist, transforming everyday life into the stuff of brilliant fiction. In previous stories and novels, like 2014’s Clever Girl, the British writer has captured the beauty, messiness and irony of family life, especially marriages. Her new novel, The Past, keeps to the domestic sphere, examining the lives of four adult siblings who gather at a country house for the summer.

Ostensibly, the vacation is to decide whether or not to sell the vicarage, the gracefully decaying home where the four were raised by grandparents after their mother’s death from breast cancer. Sisters Harriet, Fran and Alice are also curious about their brother Roland’s third wife and eager to visit with teenage niece Molly. Kasim, the son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, tags along and also takes an interest in Molly. Meanwhile Fran’s children, Ivy and Arthur, run wild, spy on the young couple and make an unsettling discovery in an abandoned cottage in the woods. Dignified, quiet Harriet, the oldest of the sisters, relishes her private time but soon finds herself responding to one of the house guests with a passion that even she can’t contain. 

There is not a lot of action in The Past. The sisters gossip about their new sister-in-law. They play cards and drink gin, watch the growing flirtation between the two young adults and, together with their brother, wonder how long they can hold on to the vicarage—and if they even want to. But just as sure as mold is growing in the long unused pantry, past arguments and unresolved jealousies and resentments have been quietly building. The present resonates with the secrets the past holds. 

Hadley’s prose is irresistible and gorgeous. Descriptions of the land around the vicarage and cottage ring with a poetic intensity, and she richly evokes the sounds and smells of the outdoors: the bird calls, the wind, the summer rain moving through grasses and trees. Her thoughtful observations regarding the inner world of her characters and the outer landscape of their surroundings make this latest effort a novel of remarkable skill and scope. 

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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