Book Review: The Past by Tessa Hadley

The Past What’s it about?

Three sisters and a brother meet up in their grandparents’ old house for three long, hot summer weeks. The house is full of memories of their childhood and their past — their mother took them there when she left their father – but now they may have to sell it. And under the idyllic surface, there are tensions.

Roland has come with his new wife and his sisters don’t like her. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, makes plans to seduce Molly, Roland’s teenage daughter. Fran’s children uncover an ugly secret in a ruined cottage in the woods. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, blasting the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the oldest sister. A way of life – bourgeois, literate, ritualised – winds down to its inevitable end.

My thoughts

Just lately I’ve had a run of not enjoying my book club reads and unfortunately this one wasn’t for me either.

The first thing I noticed and didn’t really like or understand why it was written like this, is the dialogue and conversations.  For some reason the author has written it like this example:

When you decided to invite Kasim, Fran said, – where exactly were you planning for him to sleep? Alice was blithe. – Don’t worry, there’s plenty of room.  She banged through the drawers in vain, looked hopelessly around here. – Don’t we have scissors?

I don’t get it, why use these lines to indicate speech rather than speech marks?

I also found it quite unbelievable that Alice would have taken her ex-partner’s teenage son to her family home for a 3 week holiday.  It’s not as if they were close, just all very random.

If this book were a film, it would be one those that’s labelled ‘critcially acclaimed’, but most of us will be bored to death. Just because a book is well written and full of long fancy words that I’ve never heard of before doesn’t make it interesting.

There were so many characters and plotlines that the story only scratches the surface of them.  If you’re going to write a book like this and concentrate on the intimacy of people’s everyday lives it still needs something to pull it along and make you want to pick it up, unfortunately I thought it was boring and easily forgettable.  If you want to read a really good character based book, read Plainsong by Kent Haruf.  Shame really, this book had ok plots,  I just thought it was trying to do too many things.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

p.s  I didn’t want to include this in the main body of the review as I appreciate this is a publisher and editing issue rather than the author but there were a few mistakes in this book.  One I could forgive but not several.  I mean Pliar instead of Pilar (a significant character).  Using though instead of thought, and this sentence “she does looks like you”. 

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WWW Wednesday (September 7th)

WWW WednesdayThis weekly meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open to all to participate. Why not join in and let us know what’s on your reading list this week…

To join in, just answer the following three questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?


I’m reading…

Recipe for Life – The Autobiography by Mary Berry

I love Mary Berry and the Great British Bake Off and now that it’s back on our (UK) tv screens there’s no better time to be reading this.  It’s also my second non-fiction in as many months – go me! 🙂

Recipe for LifeThe blurb

From the moment she came into the world – two weeks early, throwing her parents’ lives into disarray – Mary has gracefully but firmly done things her own way.

Born in 1935, in the city of Bath, Mary’s childhood was a curious mix of idyllic picnics and ramblings, and alarming air raids; of a spirited and outdoorsy home life and a dreaded school existence. All nearly cut horribly short by an almost fatal bout of polio when she was thirteen, which isolated Mary in hospital, away from beloved family and friends for months.

Recovery saw her turn to her one true passion – cookery. And so began a love affair that has – so far – spanned six remarkable decades; from demonstrating ovens in the early 1950s to producing glossy food magazines in the 60s and 70s, gradually becoming the country’s most prolific and – many would say – best loved cookery writer. Until her emergence in the 21st century as a TV sensation and style icon on the Great British Bake Off.

As a working mother, at the heart of a busy household, Mary became an expert at the art of juggling, even bringing her working life into her home with her Aga school. And there have been challenges, one terrible tragedy and many joys along the way.

I recently finished

The Past by Tessa Hadley

This was our book club read for August and despite being well written it was thoroughly and utterly boring! Review to follow at some point.

The PastThe blurb

Four siblings meet up in their grandparents’ old house for three long, hot summer weeks. But under the idyllic surface lie shattering tensions.

Roland has come with his new wife, and his sisters don’t like her. Fran has brought her children, who soon uncover an ugly secret in a ruined cottage in the woods. Alice has invited Kasim, an outsider, who makes plans to seduce Roland’s teenage daughter. And Harriet, the eldest, finds her quiet self-possession ripped apart when passion erupts unexpectedly.

Over the course of the holiday, a familiar way of life falls apart forever.

 What’s up next?

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

This book was offered to me back in March by the publisher and for one reason and another I had to put it aside.  It’s quite a thick book  with small text so I wonder how long it’ll take me to get through.

All Things Cease to AppearThe blurb

Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife murdered and their three-year-old daughter alone–for how many hours?–in her room down the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at the private college nearby teaching art history, and moved his family into this tight-knit, impoverished town. And he is the immediate suspect–the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional. While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. The pall of death is on-going, and relentless; behind one crime are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served.

Have you read any of this week’s choices?

Do share what you’re reading and recommendations in the comments…