A child of the Bristolian burgh, birthed under English skies in 1956, Tessa Hadley — now celebrated scholar and littérateuse — has her roots running deep into the core of human understanding. Hers is a realm both prosaic and profound, her tales a fusion of the familial and the individual, her voice a whispering echo in the grand lecture halls of the University of Cambridge and the University of Bristol, and later reverberating in her writerly sanctum at Bath Spa University.
Diving headfirst into her newest compendium of narratives, After the Funeral and Other Stories, is akin to unwrapping a confection of human experiences — bitter, sweet, salty, sour — all rolled into a tantalizing morsel of life. Each yarn, spun with the finesse of a master weaver, intricately intertwines threads of love and loss, conflict and deception, the hushed whispers of women’s lives and their echoing repercussions.
Much like a decanter of vintage port, Hadley’s collection, originally corked in The New Yorker, has been allowed to breathe, to develop a full-bodied character. In “Cecelia Awakened,” we join a young girl’s journey of self-discovery amidst the storied piazzas of Florence, while “The Other One” weaves us into a tangled skein of hidden pasts and shadowy truths.
Piercing the comfortable veneer of conventional familial ties, Hadley unfurls a vibrant tapestry of unusual parenting in “My Mother’s Wedding” and “Funny Little Snake”. A chance encounter between two exes unravels in “Dido’s Lament”, spinning a yarn of emotional contrasts in their post-divorce lives.
In each narrative, Hadley’s arsenal is fully displayed: a sharp blade of psychological acuity, a detailed needlework of keen observations, the vibrant threads of domestic life. Her stories don’t merely conclude; they hover, trembling on the precipice of transformation, offering a reading experience that, like a brilliant sleight-of-hand, lingers on well beyond the final page-turn.
Swimming in the swirling eddies of After the Funeral and Other Stories one can’t help but bask in the glow of Hadley’s literary luminosity. A prodigious compilation in a distinguished oeuvre, it proves an enthralling lighthouse beckoning both novices and literary old salts alike, and cements her reputation as a maverick helmswoman in the fleet of contemporary British literature.