Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Married Love by Tessa Hadley

Title: Married Love: And Other Stories
Author: Tessa Hadley

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / British / Contemporary / 1970s / 1920s / Relationships / Family / Marriage / Romantic Love / Class Differences)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (11/20/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked to love.
Did I finish?: I inhaled them.
One-sentence summary: Twelve sharp, sad, moody stories of relationships -- good ones, bad ones, broken ones, successful ones -- set between the now and the early 1900s.

Do I like the cover?: I'm on the fence about it -- it's pretty, but I don't know if it captures the mood of the stories, which are sadder. Rainier.

I'm reminded of...: Jane Bowles, Daphne Du Maurier, Valerie Laken

First line: 'The winter after her brother killed himself, Ally got a job at a writers' centre near her parents' house, helping out with the admin in the office.', from 'She's the One'.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like short stories, very British-y fiction, moody gems that can be inhaled in a half hour.

Why did I get this book?: I'd heard a lot of buzz about Hadley's previous novel, The London Train, and was curious!

Review: I have to confess, when I saw the blurb from the San Francisco Chronicle on the cover -- "An acknowledged master of limning the Chekhovian mysteries of experience." -- I kind of panicked. I know Chekhov is great, but isn't The Seagull super obscure and boring? I'm pretty sure I know what 'limning' might mean, but needless to say, I was a bit daunted to start.

I needn't have worried! While these stories are quiet in a way, they aren't boring or obscure. They're moody and sad, poignant and romantic, bittersweet and heartbreaking, frustrating and expansive. Hadley's writing is pretty at times -- ("The wind is tearing scraps of cloud in a fitfully gleaming sky, and combing through the twigs of the hornbeam trees (the trees are another difference between this street and his), setting them springing and dancing like whips.", from 'The Trojan Prince') -- and sharp at other times, like 'In the Cave', six pages that articulated perfectly the disappointment of not being in love.

Some of the stories are historical -- set in the '20s or the '70s -- while others are ambigu-contemporary.  All are about relationships in some way, and usually about the way those relationships fail one or both people. The New Yorker has the entirety of 'Married Love', the titular first story of this volume, online; you can get a sense of Hadley's writing style and subject through this story, which I found captivating and maddening. My favorite story might have been 'The Trojan Prince', about a young man in 1920 who decides to befriend his wealthier second cousin for a nebulous, un-articulated reason and instead finds he's less enamored of her than he expected.

I inhaled this volume over the past weekend -- there are twelve gems in this book -- and it was perfect for kicking me out of my reading funk.  These sad snapshots of love and life were a kind of escape -- I was grateful for my own happier relationships and caught up in the whirlwind of the ones contained in the book -- and I'm still thinking about these stories with a mix of sadness and longing.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Married Love to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 12/7.

17 comments:

  1. Oh, I have to get my hands on this one! So glad to see you enjoyed it. I read The London Train last year (or was it the year before? Time blends together...) and absolutely loved it. Hadley's writing isn't for everyone, but I find it literary and lovely while still being accessible and easy to digest, if that makes sense. Great review! Off to read "Married Love" over at The New Yorker!

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    1. Meg, you nailed it -- it is 'literary' but doesn't feel obscure -- her stories felt weighted but not bloated. Quite emotional even though restrained.

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  2. I'm excited about this one -- even more so after reading your review!

    "Limning" is really getting to be one of Those Book Review Words, isn't it? :)

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    1. Shan, it is *so* good! I think I'm going to have to start tracking how often I see 'limning' or some variation!

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  3. This sounds marvelous! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  4. I'm tempted...but worried. I tend to get attached to characters, and I think that's why short stories don't always work for me :( But, your review is the 2nd review I've read about this collection, and I'm definitely intrigued...

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    1. Oooh, interesting -- I can appreciate why you'd worry about that because in this collection, you will care about the characters -- but I found Hadley offered some good closure (in some of the stories, at least!) -- and writing is so lovely!

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  5. I really love short stories and even more I love short stories that are sad, melancholy, or otherwise unhappy. I hesitate to say unhappy, but the point is that I find so much more meaning in hardship and struggle and frustration and disappointment than I do with happy stories. I'm glad you liked this one! Thanks for being on the tour!

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    1. I know what you mean -- the moodiness is the draw -- how folks survive, or don't -- it's quite evocative without being, I don't know, manipulative? Perfect for the late autumn gray days, needless to say!

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  6. This collection really intrigues me (somehow knowing they're sad love stories even more so!) I've been meaning to read Hadley for years, and while I don't want to start with her stories, as The London Train has been on my shelf since it was longlisted for the Orange *last* year, I may have to, as I've been on a short story kick.

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    1. I've got The London Train too and am eager/dreading it -- it'll be a hard read, I think, in a good way! -- but this volume is kind of perfect for this grey-y time of year. Really delicious -- can't wait for you to read them!

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  7. Interesting to hear about the cover, and I have to say from it I'd have thought the stories were pretty positive. Some sort of light at the other end of the tunnel idea perhaps? Sounds a very good book, much to think about!

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    1. I suppose there is that -- the characters survive, for good and for bad, go on -- but I can't help but feel there's a kind of chick lit-y-ish marketing going on, trying to grab folks who might think this is more Nicholas Sparks than, say, Muriel Spark.

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  8. These stories sound wonderful, although that blurb is utterly cringe-worthy!

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    1. I know, I consider myself I pretty savvy reader, and it seriously intimidated me!

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  9. I totally read a Chekhov play once, but I sure don't remember which one. I do remember that in class I got to read the part of a crazy woman and that was super fun.

    Oooh, I'm not usually a short story fan, but this sounds a wee bit like Love, In Theory, which you know I loved.

    I'll definitely be adding this to my tbr.

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