Lottie announces at the breakfast table that she is getting married. The youngest daughter of a large and close-knit family, Lottie is nineteen but looks five years younger. Her fiancé is Edgar Lennox, a composer of religious music and lecturer at Lottie's university, forty-five years her senior. We follow as Lottie's life unfolds; her marriage to Edgar, the tiny flat they share, the children that follow. It is a story of romantic dreams and daily reality, family loyalties tested but holding, and the comedy and solace to be found in small moments. Evoking a world that expands beyond the pages, it marks the beginning of what is an astonishing new collection.
On full display in these stories are the qualities Tessa Hadley has been praised for often before: her unflinching examination of family relationships; her humour, warmth and psychological acuity; her powerful and precise prose. In this collection there are domestic dramas, generational sagas, wrenching love affairs and epiphanies -- captured and distilled to remarkable effect.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2012: Novels and stories being such different beasts, it's rare to find a writer gifted at both: the quick sketches and implications of a short piece; the steady build and satisfying arc of an extended one. Four-time novelist Tessa Hadley deftly handles any length, as her outstanding new collection confirms. Despite the book's title, Married Love, these dozen taut stories are decidedly unsentimental. In "Friendly Fire," a middle-aged mother cleans toilets in a warehouse, reflecting on her hapless husband and soldier son; in "Post Production," a film director dies suddenly in his kitchen, leaving a bizarre tangle of relationships behind. Hadley has a special talent for opening lines: "After the sex, he fell asleep," reads one. Only a writer at the top of her game could make you care what happens next. You will. --Mia Lipman