tahirra1's Reviews > The Past

The Past by Tessa Hadley
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Apr 05, 2016

liked it
bookshelves: group-read

Overall, this was a great read that I’m glad was the first pick of a group I’m a part of. While the characters may not stay with me long after, the feelings the book brought up will. I came out of it in a daze.

Four siblings, Hettie, Roland, Alice, and Fran plan to spend three weeks in their late grandparent's home to decide what to do with the property. Fran brings her two children, Ivy and Arthur; Alice brings her ex-boyfriend's 19 year old son Kasim; and Roland brings his daughter Molly, and his new (third) wife Pilar. Each character carries baggage as they try to navigate around each other while putting off the discussion that brought them there in the first place.

The beginning of the book—the first 50 pages or so—was hard to get through for me. Part of it is that I haven’t read “domestic fiction” in a long time. Part of it is also that the book is slow to start. However, I can understand why. Hadley writes like a tapestry: though the first few threads strung together seem bland, they are necessary for the finished piece to have its affect.

What got me through the beginning was the writing. What Hadley can do with a sentence is masterful. Just read this:
“Light, with a ripple in it like water, quavered through the clear glass in the windows, tinged green from the trees outside.”
That’s just a sentence I particularly liked, it’s not even one of the better ones she writes.

The book picks up as Ivy, Arthur, and Hettie all start to develop more and less attention is given to Alice. The first three are the real driving forces behind the story. Hettie, in particular, gives the book its biggest source of tension where there otherwise might not have been any. Also, I think this may be the first time I've read a non-YA book with little kids in it who I didn't find annoying and actually liked!

Through Hettie, Ivy, Arthur, and a time jump, Hadley writes with a poetic eye about mistakes and missed chances; about innocence and loss; about the consequences small moments in our lives can have; and about how though there is wistfulness with the past, there is always moving on.

3.5/5
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Reading Progress

April 5, 2016 – Shelved
April 5, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 16, 2016 – Started Reading
May 18, 2016 – Shelved as: group-read
May 18, 2016 – Finished Reading

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