Acclaimed novelist Hadley (The Past, 2016, etc.) is back with a collection of 10 quietly explosive short stories that reveal, with unsparing precision, the epic drama simmering beneath the mundanity of everyday life.
A woman takes a job as a caretaker for a difficult old man and finds herself entangled in the family’s internal politics—and unable to avoid learning the secrets of her employer’s past. An indolent 10-year-old, generally a disappointment to her elegant parents, discovers the intoxicating power of fiction on a family vacation in the South of France. A young divorcée takes refuge in the empty home of an older and more glamorous acquaintance and becomes increasingly invested in the more intimate details of her hostess’s life, first through her diary and then through her ex-lover himself. A mother, now ill, goes to visit her adult daughter in Liverpool and has an odd encounter with a strange young man from the train; a London expat returns to her childhood home in Leeds to reconcile with her sister, long estranged. In the title story, a little girl wakes in the night and is overcome with the desire to “disrupt this world of her home” in more ways than she knows. In the closing piece, a dress designer is commissioned to make an old acquaintance’s wedding dress, a venture that is ultimately doomed. Buried under each quotidian moment is the churning of a lifetime; each tiny snapshot seems to offer a window not only into the past, but toward the future. Hadley captures her characters at turning points so subtle they themselves rarely notice them. Ordinary as they are, these are episodes that will echo, softly, throughout her characters' lives.
Achingly lovely, though never sentimental, Hadley’s collection renders common lives with exquisite grace.