Tessa Hadley’s love of freedom: its publication a ’cause to celebrate’

Mia Levitin said in the magazine FT. Free love, her eighth novel, “adds a ’60s twist to Anna Karenina“.

Set in 1967, the film revolves around Phyllis Fischer, 40 years old, a wealthy suburban housewife married to Roger, a high-ranking civil servant. One summer night, twenty-year-old Nicky – the son of a family friend – came to dinner. He and Phyllis steal a “nefarious kiss” – and embark on an affair. Leaving home without a forwarding address, Phyllis trades her cozy life with Roger for “the then bohemian Ladbroke Grove” (where Nicky lives in a dingy bed).

Hadley’s style is as “luxurious” as ever and her features are stunning. While this is perhaps not her best novel, its publication is a “cause for celebration”.

Hadley has been criticized for her “limited social concerns – her unfathomable preoccupation with Cecilias, Harriets and Rolands,” James Marriott said in Time. So it’s gratifying that in this “beautiful and delightful” novel she contrasts the bourgeois world with the “tremendously unreformed” 1960s counterculture world.

There is a problem, however, says Johanna Thomas-Corr in Sunday Times: Hadley spent more time at home among the grassy borders than in the “smoking” environment of Nicky and his friends. Her depictions of Swinging’s ’60s rarely go above the cliché — and “as she tries to capture the life of a black nurse with whom Phyllis befriends, writing becomes difficult.” . You feel Hadley “desperately wants to go back to the bourgeois suburbs” – and as this disappointing novel develops, I wish I could go back there with her.

Jonathan Cape 320pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99

Free love

The Week Bookshop

To order this or any other book in print, visit speak to a bookseller at 020-3176 3835. Opening hours: Monday through Saturday, 9am – 5:30pm and Sunday 10am – 4pm. Tessa Hadley’s love of freedom: its publication a ’cause to celebrate’

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