A subtly incisive vision and the ability to conjure full fictional scenarios in limited spaces characterize the new collection by a noted British writer.
In her second volume of stories, Hadley (The London Train, 2011, etc.) considers private fears, bad decisions, tipping points and unexpected assertions of free will, via 12 short fictions, six originally published in The New Yorker. “The Trojan Prince” introduces a young merchant seaman in the 1920s, flirting with the daughter of a wealthy family but ultimately choosing not to respond to her signals of attraction. In “A Mouthful of Cut Glass,” one of several stories reflecting social schisms, two college students take their partners home to meet the family and come face to face with the class divide. The comfortable middle classes, an easy target, are pictured often, hosting boozy parties with unintended consequences in “Because the Night” or, in the title tale, coping badly with a teenager’s announcement of marriage: “Whatever for?” responds the mother, “Dad and I have never felt the need.” The strongest tales are at the front of the collection, though the briefer later ones linger on the palate too, like “In the Cave,” which pinpoints an infinitesimal but irrevocable emotional shift.
Shrewd, insightful, unpredictable, Hadley’s stories successfully plumb the complicated daily deeps.