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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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These stories fill you with a sense of being deeply understood, that all your sorrows and observations and emotions are part of the human experience that is communicated richly and wisely to you by Hadley.