Hadley, Tessa 1956-
HADLEY, Tessa 1956-
PERSONAL: Born February 28, 1956, in Bristol, England; daughter of Geoff (a teacher, shopkeeper, and jazz trumpeter) and Mary (Gilhespie) Nichols; married Eric Hadley (a university lecturer), January, 1982. Education: Clare College, B.A. (English), 1978; Bath Spa University College, M.A. (creative writing), 1994, Ph.D., 1998. Politics: "Complex!"
ADDRESSES: Home—107 Connaught Rd., Cardiff CF24 3PY, Wales. Offıce—Bath Spa University College, Newton Park, Bath BA2 9BN, England. Agent— Caroline Dawnay, Russell St., London, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and professor. Bath Spa University College, Bath, England, lecturer, 1997—.
Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Accidents in the Home, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Until recently, Tessa Hadley's publishing history included children's literature and treatises on mythology, folklore, legend, and literary figures such as Henry James and Thomas Mann. It took a novel—Accidents in the Home—to launch the university lecturer into the realm of popular fiction.
Accidents in the Home is the story of Clare, a self-proclaimed frumpy mother of three who feigns contentment in a hollow marriage. One day, her longtime friend Helly appears with Helly's new boyfriend, David. Glamorous Helly is a fashion model whose lifestyle is the opposite of Clare's: fast-moving, exciting, spontaneous. Or so Clare thinks. David turns out to be someone the teenaged Clare once shared a wild night with at a party, and she is now shocked when he shows her an earring of hers he has kept as a secret memento of the occasion.
The sudden reappearance of David in her life gives Clare pause. She yearns for the excitement she perceives David and Helly having, and in an effort to find that, becomes involved with her Ph.D. supervisor. Meanwhile, Clare's husband Bram initiates an affair with Helly, and the lives of these characters are forever changed.
Maria Russo reviewed Accidents in the Home for the New York Times and wrote, "It's the kind of story each generation must find its own ways of telling, and Hadley has a way of delivering resonant details that both link Clare's plight to a well-known tradition and root it in the present." Although adultery is central to Accidents in the Home, Hadley weaves a tapestry much more involved than what may appear on the surface. Julie Meyerson, reviewing the novel for the Guardian, wrote, "It took me about four pages of this fantastically subtle, absorbing and insightful novel to realize that although the familiar ingredient is there, something much more interesting is going on." For example, Hadley provides a family tree that illustrates how Clare's marital troubles stem from her father's views on love and marriage. Having grown up in a home with a stepmother and stepsiblings—and the tumultuous emotions that often accompany that domestic situation—Clare's obsession with the ideals of family life and relationships becomes more easily understood.
As a contemporary look at domestic life, Hadley's novel does not shy away from reality, however mundane it may be. Although no one in the book is truly happy, neither are they unhappy. Hadley offers various perspectives on the same situation, and the reader is afforded fresh analyses as characters reach their individual levels of self-awareness. As people tend to do, Clare compares her life to that of her friend, and though she admits to jealousy, she eventually comes to the conclusion that she'd rather have "the abrasiveness of the real."
"Any book with as many interwoven stories and characters as this one has to be rooted in the particular if it is to succeed: Hadley's particulars are meticulously glimpsed,"wrote Sheena Joughin in a review for the Times Literary Supplement. "Details of family life are horribly convincing, as are nuances of mutual ambivalence. . . . Accidents in the Home is a book which succeeds in trying not to please." Other critics made similar comments. In the Guardian, Julie Meyerson wrote, "This is prose to die for. Without resorting to obvious lyricism or stylistic tricks, Hadley writes readable, approachable phrases that suck you in with the power of their psychological insight."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Accidents in the Home, p. 1090.
Guardian (London, England), April 20, 2002, Julie Myerson, "Beyond Cosmo."
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Accidents in the Home, p. 209.
New York Times Book Review, May 26, 2002, Maria Russo, "Extramarital Bliss," p. 7; June 9, 2002, "And Bear in Mind . . . ," p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, review of Accidents in the Home, pp. 47-48.
Times Literary Supplement, April 12, 2002, Sheena Joughin, review of Accidents in the Home, p. 12.
Bath Spa University College,http://www.bathspa.ac.uk/ (September 3, 2002), staff profiles.
Cambridge University Press,http://www.books.cambridge.org/ (September 3, 2002), synopsis of Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure.*