ebook review copy; 320 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780062270412
The Past by Tessa Hadley is a recommended domestic drama featuring four adult siblings.
The decision facing the family is whether or not their grandparent's cottage should be sold. After their mother died young and their father abandoned them, the four siblings grew up in the cottage in the Somerset countryside and have vacationed there for years. The cottage needs upkeep but the question is can the siblings afford to do it or do they even want to keep it. To help make that decision they are all staying at the cottage for three weeks.
The family consists of three sisters and a brother. Harriet the oldest sister is an introspective loner. Alice is a vain, sentimental free-spirit. Fran, the youngest, is a teacher, and most practical of the women. Roland, their brother, is a distant and stuffy professor of philosophy and a writer. Also in the group is Roland's third wife, Pilar, an Argentinian Lawyer; Kasim, a 20 year old son of Alice's ex-boyfriend; Molly, Roland's 16 year-old daughter, and Fran's two young children, Ivy and Arthur.
Don't expect an action-packed plot or really much of a plot at all. The Past is really more of a character study of the family, as individuals and their interpersonal dynamics. When Pilar and Kasim are interjected into the mix, it does change the dynamics. Adding to the mix is a budding infatuation between Kasim and Molly. At play are all the small irritations, resentments, and assumptions family members already hold and assume about other members of the family. Individuals are reduced to their familial roles, which are based on years of experiences and stories. While calm of the surface, the sisters seem to be always on the cusp of some drama or feeling some disappointment.
Hadley breaks the novel up into three sections. The first and third are the present day and concern the vacationing siblings. The second goes back in time when their mother briefly left her husband and returned home to see her parents. The first part of the novel captured my attention and I wanted to read more. Then, for me, The Past lost some of its allure when it jumped back in time. The third section actually contains all the drama that was promised in the description, but at this point, when it happens, it's rather anti-climactic.
I would rate The Past as a recommended novel based on the quality of the writing and the character development. If you enjoy novels that are heavy on character development, then this will be a good choice. If you want more action and drama, look elsewhere.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.