Winner of the Windham Campbell Prize • A Washington Post Best Book of the Year • A Time Best Book of the Year • A San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Book of the Year • A Huffington Post Best Fiction Book of the Year • A New York Times Editors’ Choice
In her most accessible, commercial novel yet, the “supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence (New York Times Book Review) turns her astute eye to a dramatic family reunion, where simmering tensions and secrets come to a head over three long, hot summer weeks.
With five novels and two collections of stories, Tessa Hadley has earned a reputation as a fiction writer of remarkable gifts. She brings all of her considerable skill and an irresistible setup to The Past, a novel in which three sisters, a brother, and their children assemble at their country house.
These three weeks may be their last time there; the upkeep is prohibitive, and they may be forced to sell this beloved house filled with memories of their shared past (their mother took them there to live when she left their father). Yet beneath the idyllic pastoral surface, hidden passions, devastating secrets, and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them.
Sophisticated and sleek, Roland’s new wife (his third) arouses his sisters’ jealousies and insecurities. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, becomes enchanted with Molly, Roland’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Fran’s young children make an unsettling discovery in a dilapidated cottage in the woods that shatters their innocence. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, leveling the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister.
Over the course of this summer holiday, the family’s stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of life—bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican—winds down to its inevitable end.
With subtle precision and deep compassion, Tessa Hadley brilliantly evokes a brewing storm of lust and envy, the indelible connections of memory and affection, the fierce, nostalgic beauty of the natural world, and the shifting currents of history running beneath the surface of these seemingly steady lives. The result is a novel of breathtaking skill and scope that showcases this major writer’s extraordinary talents.
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About the Author
Tessa Hadley is the author of six highly acclaimed novels, including Clever Girl and The Past, as well as three short-story collections, most recently Bad Dreams and Other Stories, which won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker; in 2016 she was awarded the Windham Campbell Prize and the Hawthornden Prize. She lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
By Tessa Hadley
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2016 Tessa Hadley
All rights reserved.
ALICE WAS THE first to arrive, but she discovered as she stood at the front door that she had forgotten her key. The noise of their taxi receding, like an insect burrowing between the hills, was the only sound at first in the still afternoon, until their ears got used to other sounds: the jostling of water in the stream that ran at the bottom of the garden, a tickle of tiny movements in the hedgerows and grasses. At least it was an afternoon of balmy warmth, its sunlight diffused because the air was dense with seed floss, transparent-winged midges, pollen; light flickered on the grass, and under the silver birch leaf-shadows shifted, blotting their penny-shapes upon one another. Searching through her bag Alice put on a show of amusement and scatty self-deprecation. She was famously hopeless with keys. She had come with a young man who was her ex-boyfriend's son and on the train she had been preoccupied with the question of what stage of life she was at, whether people seeing them would think Kasim was her lover, or her child – though he wasn't either. Now he walked away from her around the house without saying anything, and she thought that this mishap with the keys had shrivelled her in his opinion, he was bored already. They were in the country, in the middle of nowhere, with no way back; the house was set behind a cluster of houses on a no through road where there was no café or pub or even shop where they could pass the time.
Behind her smiles she raged at Kasim for a moment. She wished now that she hadn't brought him. It had been a careless suggestion in a moment of feeling bountiful, having this place to offer; she hadn't really expected him to take her up on it and had been flattered when he did. But if she had been alone the keys wouldn't have mattered. It would have been a kind of bliss, even, to be shut out from the responsibility of opening up the house and making it ready for the others. She could have dropped onto the grass in the sunshine. She could have let go her eternal vigilance and fallen deep down here, in this place, Kington, of all places, into sleep, the real thing, the sleep that she was always seeking for and could never quite get. Alice was forty-six, dark, soft, concentrated yet indefinite – she could look like a different person in different photographs. Her complex personality was diffuse, always flying away in different directions, like her fine hair, which a man had once described as prune-coloured; it was soft and brown like the inside of prunes, and she wore it curling loose on her shoulders.
Excerpted from The Past by Tessa Hadley. Copyright © 2016 Tessa Hadley. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had to read almost two-hundred pages before the book got to be interesting! Not one I would recommend!
A beautiful story. I have read a few other Tessa Hadley novels (The London Train, Clever Girl) and have never been disappointed. ~*~LEB~*~
Two stars only because the author could write well. There is absolutely no story here. The first 50 pages I kept thinking where is this story going. I plowed through it since I spent money to buy it. At the end I was truly disappointed. Random little plot lines that went no where, characters that could have been fleshed out so much more. I realize that the story was about a family figuring out what to do with their childhood home and none of them had extremely exciting lives but still there was no story here. Sorry I bought into the early reviews I had read in newspapers and magazines.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Three sisters and one brother descend on the house that helped raise them and must make the decision of putting money into fixing it up or saying goodbye to the house that built them. With two bringing their kids, a spouse and an ex-boyfriend's child - it is a full house of crazy! This book is divided into three categories, the first and third beinging the present and the middle part taking place in the past. The first part moved slow it felt like a long set up and get to know you period. The middle dived into the childhood of three of the four siblings and really explained to the reader the quirks of these children and how they got their personalities. The third read so much better after meeting their mother and reading about the childhood that created the adulthood for each of them.
You called soulblaze? Is everything allright?
Lay down crying