When idealist (or is it nihilistic?) young journalist Nicky Knight is invited over to the home of Roger and Phyllis Fischer, several complicated lives that were wound up tight burst open like a series of jack in the boxes. Hadley chronicles a woman’s awakening in 1960s London, which she vividly brings to life, particularly in Ladbroke Grove where much of the story takes place. The anything-goes sensibility is undercut with the awareness that this will all one day be torn down for a freeway. Sex certainly drives the narrative, but for demure readers like me, I should note that it’s hardly graphic. With Hadley’s understanding characterizations and exquisite writing, my test is how to bring her gifts to more readers, and I thought, if Hilary Mantel was writing more contemporary fiction, this is how it would read. Hope that tempts you!— Daniel Goldin
“Tessa Hadley recruits admirers with each book. She writes with authority, and with delicacy: she explores nuance, but speaks plainly; she is one of those writers a reader trusts.”—Hilary Mantel
From the bestselling author of Late in the Day and The Past comes a compulsive new novel about one woman’s sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London.
1967. While London comes alive with the new youth revolution, the suburban Fischer family seems to belong to an older world of conventional stability: pretty, dutiful homemaker Phyllis is married to Roger, a devoted father with a career in the Foreign Office. Their children are Colette, a bookish teenager, and Hugh, the golden boy.
But when the twenty-something son of an old friend pays the Fischers a visit one hot summer evening, and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden after dinner, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Nothing in these ordinary lives is so ordinary after all, it turns out, as the family’s upheaval mirrors the dramatic transformation of the society around them.
With scalpel-sharp insight, Tessa Hadley explores her characters’ inner worlds, laying bare their fears and longings. Daring and sensual, Free Love is an irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our selves – a novel that showcases Hadley’s unrivaled ability to “put on paper a consciousness so visceral, so fully realized, it heightens and expands your own” (Lily King, author of Euphoria).
About the Author
Tessa Hadley is the author of six highly acclaimed novels, including Clever Girl and The Past, as well as three short story collections, most recently Bad Dreams and Other Stories, which won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker; in 2016 she was awarded the Windham Campbell Prize and the Hawthornden Prize. She lives in London.
“Free Love is beautifully structured and brilliantly paced. It displays Tessa Hadley's extraordinary skill at making both surface life and deep interiors come fully alive. Phyllis Fischer's quest for love and escape is created with drama and excitement, but also with slow care and real delicacy and sympathy.”
— Colm Tóibín
"Free Love is a perfect example of the Tessa Hadley problem: her books are so easy on the eye, such a joy to read, it’s possible to forget how artful, profound and subtle they are–and what a great writer she is. "
— Geoff Dyer
“Every book Tessa Hadley writes makes her readers look forward keenly to the next. Free Love is a beguiling novel, deceptively easy to read; beneath the surface swim disturbing and age-old questions about freedom and fate.”
— Hilary Mantel
“With each new book by Tessa Hadley, I grow more convinced that she’s one of the greatest stylists alive. . . . To read Hadley’s fiction is to grow self-conscious in the best way: to recognize with astonishment the emotions playing behind our own expressions, to hear articulated our own inchoate anxieties. . . . The whole grief-steeped story should be as fun as a dirge, but instead it feels effervescent—lit not with mockery but with the energy of Hadley’s attention, her sensitivity to the abiding comedy of human desire. . . . Extraordinary.”
— Ron Charles, Washington Post on Late in the Day
“[Hadley] is a gifted anatomist of human relationships, with those among family members being her specialty. Her particular genius lies in the elegance and precision with which she captures the fleeting emotion, the passing, indefinable perception or tiny epiphany.”
— Katherine Powers, Wall Street Journal on Late in the Day
“Gorgeous, utterly absorbing. . . . More than many of her contemporaries, the British writer Tessa Hadley understands that life is full of moments when the past presses up against the present, and when the present transforms the past. Her brilliant new novel, Late in the Day, explores both with equal urgency.”
— Margot Livesey, Boston Globe on Late in the Day
“Brilliant.... In the hands of a lesser novelist, the intricate tangle of lives at the center of Late in the Day would feel like just such a self-satisfied riddle or, at best, like sly narrative machinations. Because this is Tessa Hadley, it instead feels earned and real and, even in its smallest nuances, important.... It’s to her credit that Hadley manages to be old-fashioned and modernist and brilliantly postmodern all at once.... We’ve seen this before, and we’ve never seen this before, and it’s spectacular.”
— New York Times Book Review on Late in the Day
“Sumptuous… Hadley’s fiction—both long and short—has, with a delicious, detached clarity, observed the shape of relationships: their unconventionality, their transgressions. She is a superb stylist, with none of the pretensions that have latterly been attached to such a term: dispassionate, yet voluptuous in her prose.”
— Financial Times on Late in the Day