Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

"Sunstroke" by Tessa Hadley (Vintage, 2008)

She's been published in "Granta" and "The New Yorker", which surprizes me. The reviews quoted on the back cover mention "understated", "discreet", "excels in glimpses". The quote on the front cover begins "Really very sexy". Take your pick. In two stories older women flirt (or more) with younger men (aged 13 and 18). The 13 year old tracks the woman down over 2 decades later, meeting token resistance. A 20 year gap occurs in at least 3 of the stories - on both p.69 and p.127 events that meant so much to one person are barely recalled by another. Towards the end of the final story there is "Forty years later". Such intervals give the author the opportunity to interpret previous events for the reader, to summarize - "When Nia was in her twenties she went through (as she sees it now) a drearily dogmatic feminist phase. She lived for a while as a lesbian, and camped at Greenham Common. She gave herself a new name because she didn't want to use her father's, and then when Phil died (suddenly, so that she never said goodbye to him) she went into a depression for two years, and only came out of it with the help of therapy. Now she works as a therapist herself, and has a steady relationship with a man" (p.150).

She does other time-shifts too - in "Buckets of Blood" the final section begins with a jump of a few weeks, but before the paragraph's finished we're back to the original timeline. And she switches PoV - in "Sunstroke" there's a paragraph-long change of PoV. More than halfway through "Matrilineal" a child wakes before her mother, and takes over the PoV.

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