Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Clever Girl - Tessa Hadley

Clever Girl
Thanks again to TLC Book Tours for connecting me with a great book I would never have discovered otherwise. I know I say it every time, but book tours have expanded my reading so much. They are introducing me to new books, authors, and even genres. I hope that you are enjoying the variety as much as I am!

Tessa Hadley's novel, Clever Girl, follows the life of Stella from her 1960s childhood in Bristol, England to her present day life at middle age.

The promotional material for the book describes it with these words:
"It is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama - violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yes it is Hadley's observations of everyday life, her keen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles, pressing us to exclaim with each page, Yes, this is how it is."
That quote captures so well the mastery of this book. Hadley has written a book in a style in which I imagine someone telling their life story. Stella shares important moments that shaped her, lingering over people and events that have obviously deep emotional ties. She does not give away all the details and she skips over years at a time. Instead, you see her story through memory and the subtle alterations of hindsight.

Even the "big" moments are told with a straight forward tone that comes from having lived through something. Anyone who has lived through the sudden death of someone close or an intense breakup or any variety of tragedy understands this style. It comes from telling the story over and over, if only to yourself. You give the narration but minimize the drama and hurt in favor of survival. Hadley is not about giving her readers fireworks as much as she is giving them emotional truth.

This style gives the novel a very memoir-like feel. It seems as though you are sitting down to coffee with Stella, a close friend, and hearing her story firsthand.

The book does cover adult content, so be forewarned. I did not find it off putting in context. Rather, I felt like it added to the "real life" feel of the book. This is the story of a woman's life - a woman that came of age in the 70s, at that!  Content is as expected for that setting.

I really enjoyed this book. I would categorize it as one of those books you do not fully appreciate until you finish it. Then, seeing the story as a whole, you realize what a beautiful piece about life and relationships it is. While your between pages, some of those over arching themes can be easier to miss.

Pages: 272
Date Completed: February 23, 2014

*To read other bloggers thoughts on Clever Girl check out the full tour schedule.*


  1. "Hadley is not about giving her readers fireworks as much as she is giving them emotional truth."

    So true -- and exactly how I felt about this one! A slow building, a gradual unveiling. I really liked this book and admire Hadley so much. Have you read The London Train, one of her earlier works? It's one of my favorites. If you enjoyed Clever Girl, I think you'll like that one, too!

  2. I have not read any of her other books, but I will have to now! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I'm so pleased that you're enjoying the variety of books you'd had the opportunity to read for TLC. Sounds like this one was a great read! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  4. I had no idea what these 'blog tours' even are. I had to go and educate myself :D
    I first heard of Tessa Hadley when I participated in a short story contest she was judging. Sadly, I didn't win but got introduced to a great author, so there is that.

    1. I'm definitely eager to read more of her work. Thanks for reading and commenting!