Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Books - Book Review - Sunstroke and Other Stories - Tessa Hadley
This is the second to last Advanced Reading Copythat I picked up from the Main Branch of the New Orleans Public Library. The ARCs fly from the shelf, but with the heat, I haven't had the nerve to walk four measly blocks to get new ones.
Well, this one is a complete treasure. It's several short stories, mostly about women, but some men are involved, at a fork in the road of their lives. The stories talk about that decision that they must make and sometimes it's not easy, but it's interesting to read what happens after the decision is made.
The protagonists live in various parts of the UK and it's set in present time. But, the protagonists are of different ages and stages in their lives.
In the story, Sunstroke, we meet Rachel and Jane, two college buddies that have children and a man in their lives. They are at a beach in the Bristol Channel in Sommerset. "They are both in their early thirties, at that piquant moment of change when the outward accidents of flesh are beginning to be sharpened from inside by character and experience... Neither is unhappy, but what has build up in them instead is a sense of surplus, of life unlived.."
A friend comes to join the families at the beach. He picks up on this unease and drops enoungh hints to both that he should become a lover, but neither Jane nor Rachel realize that he has flirted with both of them.
In Bucket of Blood, Hilary (in her last year of high school) is taking her first trip by herself on a bus from Cambridge to visit Sheila, who is in her first year at the University of Bristol. They are the oldest children of a vicar and his post-partum depressed wife. Both vow neither to let having children wear them down so much, as their mother has been.
Hilary is surprised when a scruffy young man picks her up, instead of Sheila. "The Bristol bus station was a roaring cavern: everything was greasy and filthy with oil, including the maimed pidgeons."
Hilary spends all of her time taking care of Sheila in a squatter's building. (Sheila has had either an abortion or a miscarriage.) Hilary grows up quickly and is a bit disgusted by the environment and disappointed that her sister is repeating their mother's reproducing life.
When it's time to leave for home, she starts to think that "it seemed extraordinary to Hilary that her life must at some point soon change as completely and abruptly as Sheila's had, so that everything familiar would be left behind."
We also meet Christine, a lecturer in English at a university, Carla, who falls in love with her professor, Louie and Phil, two friends who met years ago and learn about each other in a writing class, and Graham, who looks up a woman who flirted with him when he was a teen.
Hadly captures feeling of all people at various ages of their lives. And tells interesting stories at the same time.
Labels: Tessa Hadley