Synopses & Reviews
A single woman at loose ends becomes the object of two men's affections--a father and his teenage son--in this sly, richly drawn novel
After more than twenty years in London, Kate Flynn has returned to her family home in Wales to care for her aging mother. Having cast off her academic career, she is unmoored, and when she runs into a childhood friend, David Roberts, at a concert, she finds herself falling for him, although she knows she's grasping at anything to fill the sudden emptiness of her life.
For his part, David's marriage isn't as solid as it looks--his wife, Suzie, has begun acting strangely, moving out of their bedroom, neglecting their children, and disappearing for days at a time--and he begins to seek refuge with Kate from the newfound chaos of his life.
David's seventeen-year-old son, Jamie, is also drawn to Kate's eccentricity and her strange, glamorous old house full of books and music and history. As both father and son set about their parallel courtships, Tessa Hadley's intricate, graceful novel explores the tangled web of connections between parents and children, revealing how each generation replays the stories of the one that came before, in new and sometimes startling patterns.
"This dreamy and thoughtful third novel from Hadley (Everything Will Be Alright and Accidents in the Home) chronicles the slow-burning midlife crisis of Kate Flynn. A cigarette-smoking, high-heel wearing Russian lit. prof, Kate has given up frittering among the London intelligentsia to move back to Wales and care for her aging mother, Billie. Against the backdrop of wintry Cardiff, Kate contends with her rekindled desire for David Roberts, now a married public health doctor. She simultaneously attempts to ward off the infatuated advances of David's teenage son, Jamie. As all concerned cavort provokingly, Hadley sympathizes with her quirky, stubborn characters and impulsive protagonist without excusing them, and the simmering love triangle between David, his son and Kate keeps the placid storytelling from falling into a meditative lull. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An elegant, perceptive novel, shot through with deliciously dry wit."—Zoe Heller, author of Notes on a Scandal
“A lovely, subtly teasing writer…Hadleys observations of the ebb and flow of female desire and frustration are reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, but she taps sensual undercurrents where Woolf wouldnt have dipped her toe.”—Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
“Elegantly observed…Hadleys smart, often prickly characters remind us that love is never simple, and happiness rarely wins without sorrow.”—Emily Chenoweth, People (four stars)
“Lands squarely in the sweet spot where popular fiction and highbrow literature meet…Hadleys writing is outright gorgeous, without a misstep or false note.”—Natalie Danford, Newsday
“Exposes the volatility behind buttoned-up family life with wince-inducing clarity…Hadley proves to be an extremely droll writer, one who can dole out acidic observations worthy of British authors such as Rachel Cusk.”—Nita Rao, Time Out New York
“Hadley has a knack for portraying the dysfunctional, often stagnant lives of the infuriatingly repressed.”—Alexis Burling, The Washington Post (MediaMix)
“Tessa Hadleys third novel is her most ambitious and successful to date…Hadley has a talent for endowing each of her characters with an especially robust point of view.”
—Andrea Walker, Bookforum
“Melancholy and starkly emotive, Hadleys enervating tale evokes the raw drama that lies at the emotional nexus between friends and lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children.”—Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Dreamy and thoughtful.”—Publishers Weekly
"A chess game of slow-burn erotic maneuvers . . . Hadley is a lovely, subtly teasing writer."--The New York Times Book Review
"Truly beautiful prose. Hadley's writing is outright gorgeous, without a misstep or false note. . . . Both artful and realistic and most of all enjoyable."--Newsday
"Elegantly observed . . . Hadley's smart, often prickly characters remind us that love is never simple and happiness rarely wins without sorrow."--People (four stars)
"Melancholy and starkly emotive . . . evokes the raw drama that lies at the emotional nexus between friends and lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children."--Booklist
"Hadley handily casts her tough but compassionate gaze on the domestic chaos that can erupt from coping with declining parents, the rekindling of old flames, and the sorting-out of a deteriorating marriage."--The Seattle Times
"A perfectly wrought novel . . . [Hadley has] a gift for psychological acuity and an ability to encapsulate the human condition."--The Guardian (UK)
After more than twenty years in London, Kate Flynn has abandoned her career as an academic, rented her apartment in the city, and moved back to live with her mother in the grand old house beside a lake where she grew up. Bored and lonely, Kate meets a childhood friend, David Roberts, at the opera. David is married, but Kate finds herself falling for him against her better judgment.
At the same time, David's seventeen-year-old son is visiting Kate's house in secret, attracted by her eccentricity, her wit, and her shelves full of old books and music. Though she knows the risks, Kate cannot quite resist either man. As both father and son set about their parallel courtships, Tessa Hadley's intricate, graceful novel discovers the anxieties of adulthood, and the hazards of refusing to grow up.
About the Author
TESSA HADLEY teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University. She is the author of Sunstroke and Other Stories, Everything Will Be All Right, and Accidents in the Home. Sunstroke and Other Stories was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007, and Accidents in the Home was long-listed for The Guardian's First Book Award. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker. She lives in Cardiff, Wales.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you think happens in Suzies mind when the swan falls on her car? How does that event lead into all the changes in her behavior over the course of the novel—her interest in mysticism, her break with David?
2. "Even when [Kate] was a teenager, shed always known that this thing, this falling into a new obsession, was something you did to yourself." (pg. 79.) Do you think this is true of Kate? Is it true generally? Can we protect ourselves from these kind of feelings? Do they ever take hold without some willingness on our part?
3. How do the various characters rely on art, music and literature in their lives? How does the author use their tastes in art (or lack of them) to express other aspects of their personalities?
4. Why does the author include the short scene of David and Suzies first meeting (pp. 21-22)? Is there an understanding there, or a misunderstanding, that determines the course of their relationship?
5. What about David makes him attractive to Kate? What draws them together? Is it a genuine connection, or are they both seeking to escape their lives?
6. Is Kates cleverness a defense mechanism? Is it genuine?
7. What role does the house, Firenze, play in the novel? How do its history and its contents affect the characters interactions, and particularly Kates state of mind?
8. Were you surprised by Kates ideas about politics (pp 222-224)? Do you think there is any validity to what shes saying here, or is she purely aiming to shock the other guests?
9. Late in the novel, David has a dream that leads directly to his realization that he wants to be with Kate (pp. 276-277). How does this happen? What does he see in the dream that alters his thinking? How do you interpret the dream?
10. What do you think David sees in traffic at the end of the novel (pg. 309)? Is it entirely a figment of his imagination? Is some supernatural force at work? What is the connection between this instance and the opening scene, in which the swan falls onto Suzies car?
11. Do you think Menna, the fortune teller, is a fraud, capitalizing on Suzies desire to believe, or does she truly have access to some special knowledge? Do you think that some people truly do possess those abilities?
12. Is Kate unfair to Jamie? Does she take advantage of him?