cover image Married Love and Other Stories

Married Love and Other Stories

Tessa Hadley. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-213564-3

Every story in this very English collection by New Yorker contributor Hadley (Accidents in the Home) juxtaposes the promise, even magnificence, of a rich inner life against the disappointing banality of everyday existence. In the title story, the author allows a willful girl to fling herself headlong into an ill-advised marriage, then makes us watch as all her pluck, all her potential, slowly dries up. In other stories, the author gives her characters refuge—a fecund greenhouse, the city of Venice, a house remembered from childhood—but ensures that they are not happy there, that each place is dark or rainy or infested with off-putting people. When Hadley sets a story (“In the Country”) in the bucolic English countryside on a perfect summer weekend among the members of a loving family, it isn’t long before her protagonist imagines being buried alive, “earth in her mouth and nose and ears... her flesh turning to a dry brown fertilising cake.” Disillusion is Hadley’s stock in trade. She is kind to the families she creates—mothers and fathers especially are respected, even revered. But when she dissects them with her sharp instruments of observation, she strikes nerves that can cause pain. Agent: Joy Harris, the Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Dec.)