"Her ear for dialogue and emotional nuance is sharp, her tone never slipping from a stream of fresh, evocative imagery" writes Charlotte Runcieby Charlotte Runcie / December 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)
“Deeds Not Words,” a short story in the middle of Tessa Hadley’s new collection, is about two female teachers at a girls’ school just before the outbreak of the First World War. One is an imprisoned suffragette undergoing force feeding, the other is having an affair with a married male teacher. As war breaks out, both women find their identities, built on defiant liberty, dashed by the entitlement of those around them, and are shamed into silence.
It’s a jewel of a story, and a beautifully worked example of why Hadley is one of our finest and most enjoyable modern fiction writers. Bad Dreams is her third collection of short stories and comes on the heels of her terrific sixth novel, The Past, published last year. These stories show Hadley in a free mode, with the title story in particular containing vivid poetry in its intensely focused detail, as a child explores her family home by night, alive to the sinister cloak it adopts after dark.
Hadley is interested in the minutiae of relationships and human interaction, particularly women’s often suppressed private experiences. She teases out the profundity of everyday emotion, with slice-of-life settings used to paint deeply affecting observations shot through with humour.
Her ear for dialogue and emotional nuance is sharp, her tone never slipping from a stream of fresh, evocative imagery. Reading her feels like studying a modern-day Rembrandt interior, and this latest collection proves her to be a true laureate of the domestic.