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The author of six critically acclaimed novels, Tessa Hadley has proven herself to be the champion of revealing the hidden depths in the deceptively simple. In these short stories, it's the ordinary things that turn out to be most extraordinary: the history of a length of fabric or a forgotten jacket.
Two sisters quarrel over an inheritance and a new baby; a child awake in the night explores the familiar rooms of her home, made strange by the darkness; a housekeeper caring for a helpless old man uncovers secrets from his past. The first steps into a turning point and a new life are made so easily and carelessly: Each of these stories illuminates a crucial moment of transition, often imperceptible to the protagonist.
A girl accepts a lift in a car with some older boys; a young woman reads the diaries she discovers while housesitting. Small acts have large consequences, some that can reverberate across decades; private fantasies can affect other people, for better and worse. The real things that happen to people, the accidents that befall them, are every bit as mysterious as their longings and their dreams.
Bad Dreams and Other Stories demonstrates yet again that Tessa Hadley "puts on paper a consciousness so visceral, so fully realized, it heightens and expands your own. She is a true master." (Lily King, author of Euphoria)
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By Cariola on 07-15-17
Small Objects, Big Insights
Tessa Hadley's short stories are always deceptive, in a good way. They come off as small tales of ordinary people (a child plagued by nightmares, a housekeeper, two sisters at odds over the sale of their parents; home), often in mundane situations. But what Hadley brings to their stories is a remarkable level of authenticity of character. She has mastered the language of thought, of interior emotions like few other writers today. These are people who think as we tend to think, who feel in the ways that we often feel, and yet she conveys this not through vague, abstract words but through concrete objects, visual snapshots, lingering sounds, metaphors. It's quite a skill, and it serves her well.
The ten stories in this collection vary greatly yet are all linked by a moment of self-discovery. In "Abduction," set in the 1960s, a teenaged girl left home alone on break accepts a ride from three unknown boys. It might have gone the way of Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are you Going? Where Have you Been?" but Hadley is too perceptive to fall for that trap. In "One Saturday Morning," a 10-year old opens the door to an unknown acquaintance of her parents while they run errands. Their conversation, and the one that she overhears when her parents come home, give her a first peek into adult life and a moment of maturing empathy. Claire, the focus of "Flight," is a successful woman who returns to visit her working class sister, using the birth of a nephew as an excuse for reconciliation, but perhaps her intentions are not as altruistic as she would like to believe. A housekeeper reads her employer's diary, uncovering secrets that change their relationship. A designer is called on to create a trousseau for a former classmate.
Simple stories, simple moments, extraordinary insights into human nature conveyed through Hadley's perceptiveness and masterful style.
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