In this complex, intelligent family epic, Hadley (Accidents in the Home) chronicles the lives of three generations of English women over four decades of social and political change. After her father is killed in WWII, 11-year-old Joyce and her mother, sister and brother go to live with Joyce's stern schoolteacher aunt and her aunt's family. Escaping from this cozy menagerie when she goes away to art college, Joyce, by now a striking, warmhearted redhead ("Men liked Joyce"), falls in love with her married professor, an intense painter who leaves his wife for her. Joyce adapts well to married life (like Mrs. Dalloway, she throws elaborate parties), but her marriage is less conventional than it seems. Her daughter Zoe, quieter and more self-contained, does well at school and goes away to Cambridge, where she studies history and embarks on a tormented relationship with clever, rigid Simon ("you know he never touched me-I mean, literally, even with his hand-except when he wanted to make love to me"). Against Simon's wishes, Zoe has his baby, but shortly after Pearl's birth Zoe leaves him, making a life for herself as a successful conflict expert and academic. Pearl, Zoe's rebellious daughter, has Joyce's red hair but is defiantly herself, reveling in disorder and roving with gangs of friends. The novel itself is an unruly domestic tangle of family members, lovers and friends, crowded and intimate. Cutting abruptly across decades and then zeroing in on a few months or years in the life of its endearingly human protagonists, it expertly captures the texture of daily existence and the struggle of three memorable women to make their way in the world. (Oct.) Forecast: Fans of Margaret Drabble and the Doris Lessing of The Sweetest Dream are the target readership for this thoughtful, analytical domestic novel. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
When Joyce's father is killed fighting in World War II, the Stevenson family moves from Wales to southern England, into a house with Aunt Vera and Uncle Dick. The resultant clash of cultures-working class meets middle class-is as instructive as Joyce's formal schooling. So are lessons about relationships; as Joyce scrutinizes the adults in her orbit, she discovers that Uncle Dick is a womanizing cad who treats his wife disdainfully. The lesson stays with her, and, determined not to repeat the mistakes of her foremothers, she enrolls in art school. There, she falls in love with instructor Ray Deare. Two children, daughter Zoe and son Daniel, are born as Joyce tries to fold 1960s sensibilities into a traditional marriage. As the novel progresses, we follow Zoe as she becomes a single mother and nuclear disarmament expert. We also meet her child, Pearl, and watch her develop. Sprawling and poignant, Hadley's second novel (her first, Accidents at Home, was considered for the Guardian's First Book Award) captures the social, psychological, and political factors that lead each generation to differentiate itself from the preceding. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Hadley's domestic novel introduces readers to several generations of women, each one at work to gain independence, sort through personal chaos, and watch the succeeding children mature. The setting is England from the end of World War II through the present; great-aunt Vera and her sister Lil, grandmother Joyce, mother Zoe, and teenage Pearl each gets a whirl at center stage. The robust details of their lives offer a sensual understanding not only of each woman's immediate world, but also of the changes she experiences as she matures. Like Marianne Fredriksson's Hannah's Daughters (Ballantine, 1998), this multigenerational story has strong characters that are easy to differentiate. They invite readers to ally their sympathies with specific women among the cast, making this an easy entr e for book-discussion groups. The male characters are more than simply foils for the women; they, too, offer a spectrum of approaches to life and self-realization. Overall, there's much here to appeal to those who are more interested in social insight than romance.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The Welsh author of Accidents in the Home (2002) returns with a somber-hued but surprisingly compelling second novel about three generations of stalwart British women and the men who let them down. Joyce Stevenson is 11 when her WWII-widowed mother Lil moves in with Joyce's straitlaced Aunt Vera, handsome Uncle Dick, and cousins in a wonderfully quirky Victorian house set on an estuary near Falmouth, England. Here, Joyce watches as the family's apparent new freedom and happiness slowly turn to grief and betrayal when Vera's youngest child dies of meningitis and Uncle Dick reacts by leaving Vera for one of the many voluptuous young women with whom Joyce has seen him rendezvous in town. Many years later, Joyce herself peers from a Falmouth beauty parlor window as her own husband, an artist named Ray Deare, meets his young lover, an art student; but for Joyce and Ray, the ensuing confrontations mark the beginning of a lifetime of more-or-less affectionate accommodation. Still, like Joyce, their daughter Zoe pairs up with a handsome philanderer at the tender age of 19; and like Joyce's Aunt Vera, Zoe is abandoned by him and raises her daughter Pearl alone, with Joyce's help, while becoming an academic specialist in Third World issues. The selfish and chaotic 17-year-old Pearl, last in the line of Stevenson women, is a gothic character in both the literary and the popular-culture sense; yet when she turns for comfort to her long-forgotten father, she creates a moment of eerie pathos that brings the fears and hopes of all four generations into focus. Familiar fictional territory, but Hadley masters the details with conviction and brings to the emotional landscape an intriguing perspective ofher own.
“Her gift as a writer is so considerable that her characters' revelations and predicaments linger in the mind long after her narrative has darted of in other directions.” Alice Traux, The New York Times Book Review
“This may sound formulaic, the stuff of bad women's magazines, but in author Tessa Hadley's hands it's anything but.” Carolyn See, The Washington Post Book World
“Hadley has written gorgeous contradictions and harmonious and inharmonious interactions into a warm novel that follows the contours of four generations of a family and, in the end, shows us ourselves.” Gretchen Gurujal, Associated Press
“Complex, intelligent...expertly captures the texture of daily existence and the struggle of three memorable women to make their way in the world.” Publishers Weekly