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The Past: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 5, 2016
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“From the coziest and most familiar of fictional materials, Hadley has created a remarkable story as disturbing as it is diverting.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air)
“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, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies)
“Exquisite…. For 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.... Extraordinary.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)
“Deliciously precise.... Built in a Chekhovian manner, handily assembling the grown members of an extended family and their offspring under one roof.... Hadley is adept at delineating the Cranes’ brand of cultured middle-class Britishness in all its generational mutations.” (Fernanda Eberstadt, New York Times Book Review)
“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)
“Hadley is so insightful, such a lovely writer, that she pulls you right into the tangle of wires that connect and trip up the stressed siblings. She makes you feel for these imperfect people, want to scold them, and ultimately accept them as they are. Just like family.” (Kim Hubbard, People, Book of the Week)
“Each player... is so distinct, so warmly dimensional you soon feel you know them as well as they know each other. This alone... is a marvel. More marvelous still is Hadley’s seamless, steady control, moving individual and collective stories forward and backward in time - a splendid work.” (Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle)
“Universal in its appeal and its intuitive ways of revealing how human nature, even our own, can surprise us…. Readers…should prepare themselves…for the beautiful cadences of Hadley’s descriptive, lyrical prose.” (Connie Ogle, Miami Herald)
“Hadley is so perceptive… that it can feel like she’s revealing little secrets about life that it would have taken you years to notice on your own. A-” (Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly)
“Splendid…. Hadley’s gift for depicting the interior lives of children and adults rivals Ian McEwans’s in the aptly lauded first section of Atonement.” (Amy Gentry, Chicago Tribune)
“Hadley’s beautifully composed new novel... recalls Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris in its dovetailing story lines, but the author’s genius for the thorny comforts of family... are entirely her own.” (Megan O'Grady, Vogue)
“I find Tessa Hadley’s work genuinely helpful, especially when it comes to the big subjects: love and marriage, the political versus the personal, children, friendship. And then there are the sentences themselves, so precise and beautiful, often sly, sometimes devastating, always expertly paced. Few writers give me such consistent pleasure.” (Zadie Smith, author of NW)
“A novel so evocative of summer and adolescence that to read it is to reexperience the deep languor and longing of those days…. We come to understand that the past... is merely yesterday’s present.... It is that revelation that elevates the novel, deepening our own understanding of what shapes us.” (Tayari Jones, O Magazine)
“Hadley brings a keen intelligence and emotional acuity to domestic fiction…. The Past glitters.” (Heller McAlpin, NPR)
“Chekhovian by way of a modern-day British pastoral…. Hadley moves deftly back and forth between eras and generations…. As in Chekhov’s dramas, The Past is a stage on which nothing much happens, brilliantly, even as everything slowly disintegrates.” (Boris Kachka, New York)
“I finished ‘The Past’ sadly — why did it have to end? — with a sense that I had understood something profound about both Hadley’s characters, and my own life. Many readers will, I suspect, in the presence of this exhilarating novel feel the same.” (Margot Livesey, Boston Globe)
“Hadley glides like a familiar spirit through the rooms of the house and the perspectives of her characters…. Her novels have a moral spaciousness that gives their ordinary settings and conflicts a philosophical range.... “The Past” shows Ms. Hadley’s gifts in fine fettle.” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal)
“Hadley’s novel is the kind of observant, bittersweet book whose pleasures defy plot summaries....With Hadley’s wry insights and gorgeous sentences, readers, like Alice, will find themselves only too happy to be enfolded by ‘The Past.’” (Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor)
“An immaculate prose stylist.” (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings)
“[An] exquisitely written family drama.” (Liz Loerke, US Weekly)
“Hadley’s formidable storytelling talent and compassionate understanding of humanity pull us right into this beautifully told narrative…. A memorable novel that continues to resonate well after the reader has turned the last page, and makes us long for the next work of fiction by this outstanding English writer.” (Jim Carmin, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“No one writes family like Hadley.” (Megan O'Grady, Vogue.com)
“Beautiful.” (Travel & Leisure)
“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.” (Barbara Love, Library Journal, starred review)
“Masterful…. Captures the gentle tragedies of living, losses, and regrets…. Hadley is the patron saint of ordinary lives; her trademark empathy and sharp insight are out in force here.” (Kirkus, starred review)
“Exceptional…. Familial drama at its best—unabashedly ordinary yet undoubtedly captivating.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Hadley’s prose is descriptively rich. She elevates the mundane via her keen understanding go people and the emotional complexities of marriages and families—secrets, subtle deceptions and loyalties.” (Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness)
“Placing fraught family relationships under the microscope, Hadley, wise and discerning, offers a subtle-yet-bold examination of complex emotional subtexts that have the power to bring kin together or destroy the bonds that would otherwise unite them.” (Carol Haggas, Booklist)
“Beautifully written.” (Buffalo News)
From the Author
A- “…so skilled at fluidly dipping in and out of the minds of her characters --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
The novel takes place when four middle-aged siblings and their families get together for a three-week vacation at their grandparents’ home in the English countryside. The house is deteriorating and will soon have to be sold. This is perhaps the last time that the adult children will be able to vacation there together. Bringing the four adult children back to this memory-laden country home provides an outstanding mechanism for the author to explore each character’s personality and inner life.
The book takes place in both the present, when the siblings are middle-aged, and in the past, when the siblings were children. Again, this plot mechanism allows the book to serve better as a tableau for deep psychological insight. We learn things in “The Past” that better help us inform the present.
The book is written in third person from multiple, intimate, points of view. The reader spends much of the time seeing actions from inside the heads of different characters. More often than not, the actions don’t match the thoughts and that is what is so acutely spellbinding. The author makes us keenly aware that people often do not act in accordance with what they are thinking. In other words, people are often devious. Mostly these deceptions are benign. They are done to avoid offending others, to keep family peace, to protect privacy, to protect individual freedom, to protect identity, and other similar reasons. The book shows multiple examples of each type of deception. For me, all were incredibly realistic…and that was frightening.
The book made me feel like an omniscient psychological voyeur.
I can’t remember any book I’ve read so slowly, yet enjoyed so completely. Clearly this is a book for people who love getting inside the minds of others. Not all readers will be attracted to such books of deep psychological insight, but for me, it was delightfully fascinating. It also helped that the writing was elegant without calling too much attention to itself.