Married Love: And Other Stories

Married Love: And Other Stories

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by Tessa Hadley

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"A supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence," (New York Times Book Review), Tessa Hadley is the author of four critically acclaimed novels, including The London Train, a New York Times Notable Book. A regular contributor to The New Yorker, Hadley returns to the short story form in this brilliant collection, her


"A supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence," (New York Times Book Review), Tessa Hadley is the author of four critically acclaimed novels, including The London Train, a New York Times Notable Book. A regular contributor to The New Yorker, Hadley returns to the short story form in this brilliant collection, her first since the celebrated Sunstroke and Other Stories. Married Love showcases beautifully her formidable talent for writing domestic fiction that rises about the genre to become literary art.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Married Love…is filled with exquisitely calibrated gradations and expressions of class, conducted with symphonic intensity and complexity. Hadley is fearless when it comes to noticing, say, the subtle but piercing differences between neighborhoods where utterly unwooded streets are named Clover Close or Oak Grove and places are called Old Hall, Stone House, Long End, the Rectory. She knows, and will show the reader in full narrative daylight, the rigorously scrubbed cleanliness of the lower middle class and the voluptuously careless messiness of the upper. No matter what records are playing or what progressive conversation might be under way, she follows the money…[an] understatedly beautiful collection…
—Stacey D'Erasmo
Publishers Weekly
Every story in this very English collection by New Yorker contributor Hadley (Accidents in the Home) juxtaposes the promise, even magnificence, of a rich inner life against the disappointing banality of everyday existence. In the title story, the author allows a willful girl to fling herself headlong into an ill-advised marriage, then makes us watch as all her pluck, all her potential, slowly dries up. In other stories, the author gives her characters refuge—a fecund greenhouse, the city of Venice, a house remembered from childhood—but ensures that they are not happy there, that each place is dark or rainy or infested with off-putting people. When Hadley sets a story (“In the Country”) in the bucolic English countryside on a perfect summer weekend among the members of a loving family, it isn’t long before her protagonist imagines being buried alive, “earth in her mouth and nose and ears... her flesh turning to a dry brown fertilising cake.” Disillusion is Hadley’s stock in trade. She is kind to the families she creates—mothers and fathers especially are respected, even revered. But when she dissects them with her sharp instruments of observation, she strikes nerves that can cause pain. Agent: Joy Harris, the Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Dec.)
“Hadley’s command of the telling detail, the unspoken riposte, and the subtle interpersonal struggles that fuel everyday human actions infuses this collection with both saucy fire and sobering fatalism.”
Stacey D'Erasmo
“Filled with exquisitely calibrated gradations and expressions of class, conducted with symphonic intensity and complexity….[An] understatedly beautiful collection….Extraordinarily well-made.”
Kate Tuttle
“A British writer whose work probes the dangers and joys of family life, Tessa Hadley writes like a dream, even if some of her stories can haunt you like a nightmare….Hadley’s measured, perfectly controlled prose masterfully chronicles her characters’ turmoil; these stories are gemlike and unforgettable.”
Helen Davies
“Hadley’s best felt as she teases out the often dangerous crackles in the air and cracks in the heart. There’s a louche tautness to her prose...”
Rachel Hore
“[Hadley’s stories] are often like movie clips of lives in transit, their small shifts of focus yielding up flashes of psychological insight. . . . Hadley excels at the domestic context, at pinpointing the particular quiddity on which an individual character turns; at marking the tiny swings of allegiance in human relationships.”
Philip Womack
“One of the most interesting writer around....This collection shows a writer quietly growing in style, perception and grace. She conveys to the reader that rare ability to see completely into someone else’s head.”
Edmund Gordon
“Only Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin, among all the working short story writer I’m aware of, are so adept at portraying whole lives in a few thousand words. With Married Love, Hadley joins their company as one of the most clear-sighted chroniclers of contemporary emotional journeys.”
Fanny Blake
“Domestic relationships are the stuff of these delightfully understated, tightly sprung stories.”
Elena Seymenliyska
“Married Love…could more accurately be described as a concentration, not a collection, of short stories. The stories here are, in effect, a dozen novels in miniature....There is a grand sweep and an emotional charge that brings to mind DH Lawrence.”
Meredith Maran
“Hadley excels at the poignantly comic scene and the dangling ending that somehow still satisfies. These 12 touching tales showcase her gifts.”
Susannah Meadows
“Her talent is to take these small details of everyday life and build them into stirring narratives….Hadley gives space to the smallest emotional currents, allowing them to expand.”
Heller McAlpin
“What Hadley’s stories share with Munro’s is an extraordinary ability to capture whole worlds - the hopes, disappointments, complexity and arc of characters’ lives - in concise prose that never feels rushed.”
Evening Standard (London)
“A feast of angst and disappointment.”
Andrea Huehnerhoff
“Twisting her pen with words so skilled and a sensitivity so finely honed it takes mere fragments to convey the lifetime of a character to the reader, Hadley brings us twelve of the finest short stories in print today.”
Library Journal
These stories are rich in character and steeped in class consciousness. In the exquisite title story, a 19-year-old violin student shocks her family by announcing that she intends to marry her music teacher, a married man 45 years her senior. To no one's surprise, things don't go well: three babies come along in rapid succession, her music career is forgotten, and other young women catch her husband's eye. Other stories capture familiar slice-of-life moments: a cleaning woman, diligently scrubbing toilets in an industrial work site, is preoccupied with her son's safe return from Afghanistan; a rectory-raised college student visiting her boyfriend's parents for the first time overhears his mother ridiculing her posh accent; and a schoolgirl's new friendship with a girl from "the Homes" is a cause for concern to her mother. VERDICT There is not a lot of domestic bliss to be found in these finely rendered stories, but there are many small moments of everyday life made recognizable by an exceptional storyteller. Highly recommended.—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., ON
Kirkus Reviews
A subtly incisive vision and the ability to conjure full fictional scenarios in limited spaces characterize the new collection by a noted British writer. In her second volume of stories, Hadley (The London Train, 2011, etc.) considers private fears, bad decisions, tipping points and unexpected assertions of free will, via 12 short fictions, six originally published in The New Yorker. "The Trojan Prince" introduces a young merchant seaman in the 1920s, flirting with the daughter of a wealthy family but ultimately choosing not to respond to her signals of attraction. In "A Mouthful of Cut Glass," one of several stories reflecting social schisms, two college students take their partners home to meet the family and come face to face with the class divide. The comfortable middle classes, an easy target, are pictured often, hosting boozy parties with unintended consequences in "Because the Night" or, in the title tale, coping badly with a teenager's announcement of marriage: "Whatever for?" responds the mother, "Dad and I have never felt the need." The strongest tales are at the front of the collection, though the briefer later ones linger on the palate too, like "In the Cave," which pinpoints an infinitesimal but irrevocable emotional shift. Shrewd, insightful, unpredictable, Hadley's stories successfully plumb the complicated daily deeps.

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Married Love and Other Stories

By Tessa Hadley

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Tessa Hadley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-213564-3



Married Love

Lottie announced that she was getting married. This was at the breakfast table at her parents' house one weekend. The kitchen in that house was upstairs, its windows overlooking the garden below. It was a tall, thin, old house, comfortably untidy, worn to fit the shape of the family. The summer morning was rainy, so all the lights were on, the atmosphere close and dreamy, perfumed with toast and coffee.

– Whatever for? Lottie's mother, Hattie, said, and carried on reading her book. She was an English teacher, but she read crime novels at weekends: this one was about a detective in Venice.

Lottie was nineteen, but she looked more like thirteen or fourteen. She was just over five feet tall, with a tight little figure and a barrel chest; she insisted on wearing the same glasses with thick black frames that she had chosen years earlier, and her hair, the colour of washed-out straw, was pulled into pigtails. Everyone happened to be at home that weekend, even Lottie's older brother, Rufus, and her sister, Em, who had both moved away.

– Have you got a boyfriend at last? Em asked.

Lottie was always pale, with milky, translucent skin behind a ghostly arc of freckles across her snub nose, but she seemed to be even whiter than usual that morning, blue veins standing out at her temples; she clenched her hands on either side of the place mat in front of her. They were improbable hands for a violinist: pink and plump, with short blunt fingers and bitten cuticles.

– You're not taking me seriously! she cried.

A squall of rain urged against the steamed-up window panes, the kettle boiled, toast sprang from the toaster for no one in particular. Vaguely, they all looked at her, thinking their own thoughts. Lottie emanated intensity; her personality was like a demon trapped inside a space too small. Even as a baby she had been preternaturally perceptive and judgmental. Her talent for the violin, when it was discovered, had seemed an explanation for her surplus strength, or a solution to it; she had begun on an instrument so tiny that it looked like a Christmas tree decoration. Now she was living with her parents while she studied for her music degree at the university.

– Why ever would you want to get married? Hattie said reasonably. – Dad and I have never felt the need.

– I'm not like you, Lottie said.

This was one of her battle cries.

– Of course, you're not like anybody, sweetheart. You're just yourself.

– For a start, I happen to have religious beliefs. I believe that marriage is a holy sacrament.

– No, you don't, Rufus said. – You've never said anything about them before.

– So when, exactly, are you getting married? Em asked sceptically. – And who to?

– How could I possibly know yet when? That's exactly what I want to talk to you about. I want to sort out a date. I want you all to be there. I want it to be a proper wedding. With a dress and everything. And bridesmaids, probably.

– So you have got a boyfriend! Em said.

Em was gracefully loose jointed, with her mother's hooded, poetic eyes; she worked in the toxicology department of the city hospital.

– My husband, he's going to be. Hattie put down her book and her coffee mug in concern.

– Poppet, you're so young. There's no hurry about the marrying part. Of course, you can have a proper wedding one day if that's what you want, but there's no need to rush into anything. Sullen white dents appeared in Lottie's cheeks where her jaw was set. – You forget that I have a whole life of my own now, as an adult, outside of this house, about which you know nothing, absolutely nothing. You don't warn Emily not to rush into anything.

– To be fair, Em said, – I'm not the one who just said I was getting married.

– Have we met him? Hattie asked. – Is he on your course?

– Is it the one with the stammer in your string quartet? asked Noah, Lottie's younger brother, who was still at school. – Tristan?

– How could you think I'd want to marry Tristan?

– Personally, I'd warn against anyone in a string quartet, Rufus said.

– Shut up, Rufus. It isn't anything to do with Tristan.

– So what's his name, then? Noah persisted. Duncan, the children's father, arrived from his morning ritual with the Guardian in the bathroom upstairs. He was shorter than Hattie, stocky, densely and neatly made, with a wrinkled, ugly, interesting head; she was vague and languid, elegant, beginning to be faded. He taught special needs kids at a local comprehensive, though not the same one where Hattie taught. – What is whose name?

Alarm took flight in Hattie. – Lottie, darling, you're not pregnant, are you?

– I just don't believe this family, Lottie wailed. – There's something horrible about the way your minds work.

– Because if you're pregnant we can deal with that. It doesn't mean that you have to get married.

– Is she pregnant? Duncan asked.

– Of course I'm not.

– She says she's going to get married.

– Whatever for?

– Also that she has religious beliefs, all of a sudden. This seemed to bother Rufus more than the marrying. He was an ironic pragmatist; he worked as a research analyst for the Cabinet Office.

– The reason, Lottie said, – is that I've met someone quite different from anyone I've ever known before, different from any of you. He's a great man. He's touched my life, and transformed it. I'm lucky he even noticed I exist.

She had a gift of vehemence, the occasional lightning flash of vision so strong that it revealed to others, for a moment, the world as it was from her perspective.

– And who is he? Em asked her, almost shyly.

– I'm not going to tell you now, Lottie said. – Not after this. Not yet.

– When you say "great man," her father considered, – I get the feeling that you're not talking about one of your fellow students.

Hattie saw what he meant, after gaping at him for half a second. – One of your teachers! Is it?

Lottie, blinking behind her glasses, turned her round white face toward her mother, precarious, defiant.

– Does this teacher know that you feel this way about him?

–You seriously think I'm making it all up? I told you. He loves me. He's going to marry me.

Duncan wondered if it wasn't Edgar Lennox. – He's some kind of High Anglican, isn't he? I believe he writes religious music.

– And so? Lottie challenged. – If it was him?

– Oh, no! Hattie stood up out of her chair, uncharacteristically guttural, almost growling. – That's out of the question. Edgar Lennox. That's just not thinkable, in any way, shape, or form.

– I hate it when you use that phrase, Lottie shouted, standing up, too. – Way, shape, or form. It's so idiotic. It's exactly the sort of thing you would say. It just goes to show your mediocrity.

– Let's try to talk about this calmly, Duncan said. Edgar Lennox was old enough to be Lottie's grandfather. Forty years older than she was, Hattie shrieked; later, it turned out to be more like forty-five. His already being married, to his second wife, was only a minor difficulty compared with this. Duncan and Hattie had met him twice: once when they went to the university Open Day with Lottie, and once before that, at a private view of paintings by one of Hattie's friends. He had seemed at the time Hattie's ideal of an elderly creative artist: tall, very thin, with a shock of upstanding white hair, a face whose hollows seemed to have been carved out by suffering, tanned skin as soft as leather, a charcoal grey linen shirt.

– When you say he's touched your life, could we be quite specific about this? Duncan said. – Has he actually, in the ordinary, nontranscendent sense of the word, touched you? Em protested in disgust. – Dad, you can't ask her that! Em had been crying; her eyelids were swollen and puffy, and her face was blotched. Hattie and Lottie's eyes were hot and dry.

Hattie turned on him. – How can you put it like that? How could you make it into one of your clever remarks?

– If you're asking, Lottie said, – whether we've consummated our relationship, then, yes, of course we have. What do you think we are? We're lovers.

– Naturally, I'm making a formal complaint to the university, Hattie said. – He'll lose his job. There's no question about that.

– That'll be sensible, won't it? Em said. – Then if they are married he won't be able to support her.

– You're sure she isn't making all this up? Rufus suggested.

– Think what you like, Lottie said. – You'll soon know. She sat with her mouth primly shut, shining with a tragic light. Beyond the kitchen windows, veils of rain drove sideways into the sodden skirts of the horse chestnut tree, darkening the pink flowers. Hattie said that the whole thing reminded her of when she was at art college, and a friend of hers had heard suddenly that her sister was on the point of entering a convent, a closed order that allowed no contact with family or friends.

– We all piled onto a train and went up to Leeds together on the spur of the moment, six or seven of us who were close then, and met this sister in a tea shop, and tried to convince her of everything in the world that was worth staying for.

– Don't be ridiculous, Mum. I'm not going into a convent.

– Did it work? Noah asked. – Did you convince her? Hattie frowned and pressed her knuckles to her forehead.

– I can't remember whether she went into the convent or not in the end. Perhaps she did. I can only remember the tea shop, and after that a pub, and trying to think of all the things we couldn't bear to leave behind, and getting gradually drunker and drunker.

– This isn't the same thing, Duncan said firmly. – And we aren't at anything like that stage yet, anyway.

Lottie stared at them in genuine bewilderment. – I don't understand you all, she said. – How can you not want for me what I want?

Noah saw his parents leave the house late in the evening. His bedroom was in the attic; he was sitting on the sill of his little casement window, his feet in the lead lined gutter that ran like a trough the length of the Georgian terrace, looking down over the stone parapet into the street, four stories below. Though it was strictly forbidden, he had liked to sit this way ever since he was given this bedroom when he was eight; he used to fit into the small space perfectly, but now he had to squeeze, and his knees were jackknifed up in front of his face. Rain was sluicing down the slate roof into the gutter. In the light of the streetlamps, the road shone black; parked cars were plastered with wet leaves from the beeches and horse chestnuts in the muddy triangle of public garden opposite. His mother's high heels scraped fiercely in the empty street as she crossed to the car; she must have dressed up in her teaching clothes for the occasion. She was hanging on tightly to the strap of the bag slung over her shoulder. She and Duncan dithered around the car under the half globes of their umbrellas, probably quarrelling about who should drive; they seemed as small as dolls from where Noah watched. He supposed they were going to try to find Edgar Lennox at his house; they had been calling him on the phone all day, without getting through. It was strange to think of the two households, more or less unknown to each other before tonight, connected by this drama, awake in the city when everyone else was getting ready for sleep.

Hours later - he wasn't sure how many hours, as he'd fallen asleep at his desk while revising for the geography G.C.S.E. exam he had on Monday morning - Noah woke to the sound of his mother's voice in the house again. She sounded like she did when she'd had too much wine at parties: rash and loud, extravagantly righteous. He went out to listen, leaning over the bannister and sliding noiselessly down, a few steps at a time. The steep and narrow staircase, the core of the skinny house, drew sound upward. Above his head, an ancient skylight as wide as the stairwell rattled under the rain, leaking into a strategically placed bucket. His parents and Rufus and Em were crowded at the foot of the stairs, in the hallway's jumble of boots and bikes and baskets, junk mail, umbrellas dripping on the grey and white tiles. His mother still had her fawn mac on.

– I thought he'd be ashamed, she was saying – if I told him that Lottie was marrying him because she thinks he's a great man. But it was obvious that he thinks he is one, too.

Excerpted from Married Love and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley. Copyright © 2012 by Tessa Hadley. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Tessa Hadley is the author of five highly praised novels: Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award; Everything Will Be All Right; The Master Bedroom; The London Train, which was a New York Times Notable Book; and Clever Girl. She is also the author of two short story collections, Sunstroke and Married Love, which were New York Times Notable Books as well. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker. She lives in London.

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Married Love: And Other Stories 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book of short stories. Each story really pulled me in and I couldn't wait to read the next page! A very good, relaxing read.
Jade1213 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This collection of stories was interesting. But interesting doesn't mean good. I read them all, each one hoping that the next would have some reason for being written. None of them did. The stories drew me in, but every ending was just that... the end. Would i read more by this author. Most likely no, as i didn't care for her writing style.