The Past

The Past

by Tessa Hadley

Overview: 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, Rolandís new wife (his third) arouses his sistersí jealousies and insecurities. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Aliceís ex-boyfriend, becomes enchanted with Molly, Rolandís sixteen-year-old daughter. Franís young children make an unsettling discovery in a dilapidated cottage in the woods that shatters their innocence. Passion erupts where itís least expected, leveling the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister.

Over the course of this summer holiday, the familyís stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of lifeóbourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglicanówinds 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 writerís extraordinary talents.

Faith Bowers (02/2/19): I read this soon after I read and loved Clever Girl. We just discussed this book at our book club last week and I did not like it as much. it is much more challenging to write a book about a family of 7 plus characters that develop one character really well. The writing is precise and beautiful but you are not sure where the story is going. his is very hard to write well and I think Ms Hadley did a wonderful job though I was never sure where the book was going. There are clues along the way. The Present part 1 ends with the cohesiveness of the group. The Past explains much more about the family and helps move the story along. The Present part 2 ends the novel with clarity to the relationships developed during their three week visit. Our book club obviously liked parts 2 and 3 over the first past where you getting to know everyone including the country house and the property beyond.
Rating: ***

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