Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Married Love by Tessa Hadley

Married Love and other Stories by Tessa Hadley

Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Date: November 20, 2012
ISBN:  978-0-06-213564-3
Pages: 240
Rating:  5 out of 5

 Summary:  Married Love is a masterful collection of short fiction from one of today’s most accomplished storytellers. These tales showcase the qualities for which Tessa Hadley has long been praised: her humor, warmth, and psychological acuity; her powerful, precise, and emotionally dense prose; her unflinching examinations of family relationships. Here are stories that range widely across generations and classes, exploring the private and public lives of unforgettable characters: a young girl who haunts the edges of her parents’ party; a wife released by the sudden death of her film-director husband; an eighteen-year-old who insists on marrying her music professor, only to find herself shut out from his secrets. In this stunning collection, Hadley evokes worlds that expand in the imagination far beyond the pages, capturing domestic dramas, generational sagas, wrenching love affairs and epiphanies, and distilling them to remarkable effect.

My thoughts:  I’ve always enjoyed short story collections but don’t read them as often as I’d like.  When I saw Tessa Hadley’s new book on TLC Book Tours review list, I was excited to read and review it.  I read Hadley’s last novel The London Train.  I thought her writing was sharp and clever and her characters fascinating.  So I was interested to experience her short stories and am very happy I did.

Married Love may be the title but Hadley explores different kinds of love and relationships:  love in family and friendships, burgeoning love, passionate love, old and settled love, tentative love and more.  Her explorations show an acute understanding of human nature and interaction. 

In the riveting title story, Married Love, Lottie, a young and single 18-year old, tells her family she’s going to be married. Their confusion and concern is heightened when Lottie announces, triumphantly that the groom is her music professor, Edgar.  Lottie’s oblivious to the fact that he’s three times her age and married with grown children.  She’s been flattered by Edgar and made to feel special. Lottie’s watched her older siblings move out and build exciting, interesting lives while she’s still at home.  Hadley shows us how anger and resentment can cause impetuous choices, especially in someone young and immature like Lottie.  This is, at its core, a story of rebellion and irony.  Lottie relishes shocking her family.  She expects them to see her as all grown-up, as someone important and special. Lottie doesn’t understand their dismay at her choice to marry an elderly man with a reputation for seducing his young female students.  These are trite, unimportant details to Lottie who’s caught up in visions of a fantasy life with Edgar. Hadley captures, in Lottie, so many young women’s feelings of insecurity and their need for attention.  
Lottie gets what she wants but her fantasy life shatters quickly and the reality of her behavior becomes clear.  In not considering the big picture, Lottie finds herself, if not physically, emotionally and psychologically alone in the end, her days spent caring for their children with no room or time for music. Edgar’s character is clearly delineated but Lottie, the focus of this story, is more complex but certainly relatable to millions of young women.   Hadley conveys powerful messages through strong, simple sentences packed with emotion that have an intense impact on the reader.    

One of my favorite stories in this collection is She’s the One.   Ally and Hilda meet briefly at a writer’s center.  Hilda’s very serious and stoic, not given to talking about herself or making friends easily.   Being 30 years Ally’s senior it’s not until they run into each other at the market, away from the center that they talk.  Both women have been marked by traumas, so they sense a connection with each other.  Hadley uses these women to illustrate how pain and suffering can bring people together who might otherwise have no connection at all.  Hilda recognized Ally’s need for support, understanding and companionship because of her ability to relate to her suffering. These women form a bond and discover they can talk to each other about things they can’t reveal to other people.  Hadley succeeds in telling, with insightful, beautiful prose, a heartfelt and painful story that shows how people can find solace and friendship in some very unlikely ways.  

 These two stories speak strongly to women, as do most of the stories in Hadley’s collection, but Hadley’s intuition and understanding of human interaction and relationships renders this story collection one able to be appreciated by anybody interested in better understanding fellow human beings.  In other words, these stories are more along the lines of literature in their complexity, acuity and style and should be appreciated as such.   In Married Love Hadley has written a fascinating, powerful and insightful collection of stories worthy of being read and savored by all.  I highly recommend this collection.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Married Love and to Harper Perennial for an ARC of the book.


  1. I enjoyed London Train so I think I'd like this collection. I've grown to appreciate the short story form more and more as the years go by. They lend themselves well to my busy life!

  2. I haven't read any sort story collections this year, and my time is quickly running out! I need to go out and get this one soon and see if I can read it before the end of the year. You make the book sound not only eloquent, but beautifully constructed as well. Terrific review today!

  3. I don't automatically pick up short stories, but when I do I end up enjoying them. Glad you enjoyed this collection. Happy Holidays Amy!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful collection Amy.

    Hope you have been well, and just away because of your computer issues.

  5. This sounds like a collection I would like. Glad to see you posting again ... hope all is well!

  6. TI: I think you would enjoy these short stories especially if you liked The London Train. Tessa Hadley's writing is terrific and she comes up with some really interesting scenarios. Of course, there's a lot of dysfunction in the relationships and characters!

  7. ZIBILEE: Hi! I enjoy short stories although I don't read them as often as I'd like (Why?!) But this collection I found particularly difficult to put down. I found Tessa Hadley's writing and style even better here than in her novel, The London Train. She understands people so well and knows what makes them tick. And the stories are all so different but the characters and relstionships are dysfunctional in some way, even the good ones. I'd love to know your thoughts on the stories when you have the time to read them.

  8. NISE': Thank you for visiting and commenting. I promise to stop by. I have A LOT of catching up to do! I always mean to read more ss collections which is why I agreed to review Modern Love. I really enjoyed it, too. I hope you get a chance to read these stories.
    Merry Christmas!

  9. DIANE: Thank you for coming by so soon. I've had some health problems as well as computer problems. The computer issues are over (fingers crossed) and my health problems are on the mend - Thank you!

    If you enjoy short stories definitely give these a try. I found it hard to stop reading. The characters are so recognizable andreal.

  10. JOANN: Hello! Thank you! It's great to be posting again! I have lots of catching up to do but am looking forward to it!
    I know you read short stories and I think you would really enjoy these stories.

  11. Well HI! Glad to hear from you! I was wondering if you were coming back … if Sandy got you … if you were sick. I'm glad to hear from you … and you have a 5 star read for me too!

  12. So glad to see you back, and so glad you enjoyed this book!

  13. I meant to read LONDON TRAIN and after your review I now know I need to read that book AND this one ... looks like I'm missing out on some fantastic writing!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  14. This sounds like a really great collection. I love the idea of variations on the theme of marriage. I'm going to keep an eye out for it!

  15. JENNERS: Hello! Thank you for visiting! Yep, I highly recommend these short stories, they're great although most aren't very happy...just so you know.

    I have a lot of reviews to catch up on of yours. Many of my own too post since I read a lot of books while offline waiting for a computer and for my health problems to clear up. I think I may take a 'page out of your book' (HA!) and post shorter reviews so I can catch up.

  16. ANNA: Thank you, thank you! I'm so glad to be back as I missed all of you and book reviews, posts etc.!

  17. HEATHER: I hope you're able to read LONDON TRAIN and/or MODERN LOVE soon as I'd love to hear what you think of that book and also these stories. I've already re-read a couple of them.

    Thank you for how understanding you've been. I really appreciate it :o)

  18. MARIE: Hi! Thank you for stopping by and reading my review. The stories are very interesting in terms of the different themes of love and the different scenarios. Sadly, there's a lot of unhappiness since people get involved with each other for poor reasons, often without thinking through what they're doing. But the stories are fascinating, especially the couple in which characters experience epiphanies about their lives. They also make you think.

    I hope you enjoy the stories if you read them!