The Past

ISBN 13: 9780224101691

The Past

3.16 avg rating
( 4,415 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780224101691: The Past

A mesmerizing novel about family and the modern world encroaching upon the old, from one of Britain's finest contemporary novelists.
     Three adult sisters and their brother meet up at their grandparents' country home for their annual family holiday--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--but this could be their last summer in the house, now they may have to sell it. And under the idyllic pastoral surface, there are tensions.
     Alice has brought with her 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.
     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 craftsperson unfold the lives of these unforgettable siblings.

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About the Author:

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 Alright, The Master Bedroom, The London Train and Clever Girl, and two collections of stories, Sunstroke and Married Love. After thirty years in Cardiff, Wales, she now lives in London and is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker and other magazines.

Review:

“Tessa Hadley recruits admirers with each book. She writes with authority, and with delicacy: she explores nuance, but speaks plainly; she is one of those writers a reader trusts.” —Hilary Mantel

“Few writers have been as important to me as Tessa Hadley. She puts on paper a consciousness so visceral, so fully realized, it heightens and expands your own. She is a true master, and The Past is a big, brilliant novel: sensual, wise, compelling—and utterly magnificent.”
Lily King, author of Euphoria

“What a brilliant observer Tessa Hadley is. . . . What a superb chronicler of sibling loyalties and betrayals. The Past is one of those rare novels, both gripping and truly wise. To read it is to be enthralled and moved.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

“Tessa Hadley takes a masterful look at the modern family and its complications. . . . Hadley draws these characters in The Past so accurately that the reader is carried along in the mini-dramas of their domestic lives. . . . [A]n intriguing look at a modern family and how what’s happened in the past continues to be felt as time goes on.” —The Vancouver Sun 

“[Hadley] makes ordinary life gripping.” —Toronto Star

“An enthralling ensemble novel. . . . Hadley continues to meet the high standard of fiction most recently exemplified by her novel Clever Girl and a collection of short stories called Married Love. . . . Delectable plot twists. . . . [A] captivating narrative.” —Winnipeg Free Press

The Past is the perfect novel to curl up with in these, the very days of summer. . . . [Hadley] weaves together generations of characters into a book that teems with the weight of their fictional pasts—long-dead characters come alive through the objects and memories left behind. . . . The book pulls you in not with a driving plot, but a languid, sleepy pace that matches the dying summer and the decaying home. . . . Full of both the blissful ignorance of youth and the heavy weight of experience, the novel places Hadley among the heavyweights of contemporary literary fiction.” —National Post 

“[The Past is] about the minutiae of everyday life, where ordinary things and events are suffused with significance and meaning as only those activities, undertaken during a long, lazy, extended summer holiday can be. . . . [W]onderful not only because of the realistic plot and the flawed yet sympathetic characters, but also because of the amazing, succinct use of language and the way the author describes ordinary things or events that captures the essence with acute awareness and perception, and makes the reader view them in a wholly new and different way.” —Waterloo Region Record

“[T]hese elegant pages are so preternaturally gripping that they countenance no interruption. . . . [F]or anyone who cherishes Anne Tyler and Alice Munro, the book offers similar deep pleasures. Like those North American masters of the domestic realm, Hadley crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural. If the surface of her stories is lightly etched with charm and humor, darker forces burrow underneath. . . . Hadley carves her sentences from some rare earth element that’s both dense and buoyant. And unlike America’s great, showy stylists, she wears her wit like an expensive perfume—suggestive but never identifiable. . . . Her success is quietly exquisite.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Quietly masterful domestic portrait. . . . Hadley expertly captures the gentle tragedies of living, losses, and regrets that are at once momentous and too quotidian to mention: aging, the passage of time, the fissures and slights and unspoken disappointments that simmer underneath the surfaces of all families. The melancholy drama here is not external but internal; not in facts or in actions but in thoughts. Broken up into three dreamy sections—two in the present and one set in the same house a generation earlier—the novel might seem overly precious if it weren’t so bracingly precise. Hadley is the patron saint of ordinary lives; her trademark empathy and sharp insight are out in force here.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A fresh take on a familiar story of fractious family reunions where old resentments resurface, new alliances form, and long-buried secrets are uncovered. A great read whether at the cottage or just dreaming of one.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“[A] pleasure to be savoured. In her five novels and two collections of stories, Hadley has matched the psychological insight of Henry James with the sharp dialogue of Elizabeth Bowen—both writers she admires. . . . Hadley is a master of concise exposition and these complex relationships are rarely confusing to follow. . . . [A] well-crafted novel. . . . The Past is a hugely enjoyable and keenly intelligent novel, brimming with the vitality of unruly desire.” —Sameer Rehim, The Telegraph

“[A] beautifully perceptive novel. . . . [H]adley shows the surprising ways that siblings can be stranger than newcomers.” —Oprah.com

“[T]his novel will take you by surprise in its spot-on observations of character and human nature. Hadley has a remarkable gift for quiet surveillance of the best and worst in family relationships. It’s a novel to make you think about your own life, your parents’ imprint upon you, and who takes on what default roles among your siblings. . . . [W]orthwhile and thought-provoking.” —The Gazette (Colorado Springs)

“[B]eautifully written. . . . Hadley is clever here—fine-tuning this orchestra of individuals to a fare-thee-well, quietly reviving childhood frictions, adding sexual nuance and, for some, old feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. . . . [A] very fine novel—one in which the reader is left with an extremely juicy and important secret that will now never be known to any of the book’s characters.” —The Buffalo News

“To say Tessa Hadley is good with words is beyond an understatement, for her vivid imagery explodes somewhere in its travels from the page to the brain. With sublime prose, Hadley does justice to the beauty of the English countryside, the all-important setting of her latest novel, The Past. . . . With each chapter adding a new layer of forward momentum, this novel marks a more fluid narrative than her often episodic structure.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Hadley’s gorgeous new novel is about adult siblings taking one last vacation in their grandparents’ old house. Her wit and grace will help you appreciate being holed up indoors all weekend with your own family.” —The Washington Post

“Tessa Hadley’s The Past is full of wonders, not least its extraordinary, inward recreation of a child’s imagination.” —Susannah Clapp, The Guardian

“An expertly wrought depiction of family life. . . . Hadley’s arresting descriptions of the physical and emotional landscape, and her tender approach to love, lust and, crucially, the passing of time underline her reputation as one of the UK’s finest contemporary novelists.” —Lydia Winter, Financial Times

“[A] delicately wrought novel. . . . The rites and rituals of a family are always strange and sacred, which is something that Hadley understands very well, excelling at the deep mysteries of basic human interactions. As an artist of the claustrophobic neuroses of the middle classes, Hadley is masterful. . . . [T]his exploration of the meaning of domesticity and location is entirely delightful to savour and bathe in, with enough gorgeous touches even to revel in.” —Phillip Womack, The Independent

“In her patient, unobtrusive, almost self-effacing way, Tessa Hadley has become one of this country’s great contemporary novelists. She is equipped with an armoury of techniques and skills that may yet secure her a position as the greatest of them. Consider all the things she can do. She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering. She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse. She is possessed of a psychological subtlety reminiscent of Henry James, and an ironic beadiness worthy of Jane Austen. To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous. Is that enough to be going on with? These talents are on formidable display in her latest novel, The Past. . . . Those readers yet to encounter Hadley—enviable bunch—may start with The Past and look forward to five previous novels and two story collections. But it doesn’t really matter where you start with her, because all her books are wonderful.” —Anthony Quinn, The Guardian

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Hadley, Tessa
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