Clever Girl: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Detail by detail, slowly and patiently, Tessa Hadley builds a life so rich
and so ordinary, it's easy to forget you're reading fiction. The protagonist,
Stella, observes everything at a calm remove, even when she's describing chaos.
The result feels like a kind of reckoning with how much control we really have
over our lives. Subtly different from anything else I've read.
Clever Girl is an indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today, from one of Britain’s leading literary lights—Tessa Hadley—the author of the New York Times Notable Books Married Love and The London Train.
Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin, Tessa Hadley brilliantly captures the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives—an ability to transform the mundane into the sublime that elevates domestic fiction to literary art.
Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an English woman named Stella. Unfolding in a series of snapshots, Tessa Hadley’s moving novel follows Stella from the shallows of childhood, growing up with a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s, into the murky waters of middle age.
Clever Girl is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama—violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yet 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.
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.
“Hadley’s prose is both precise and imaginative….Her genteel style belies the many pointed insights she has to offer about female ambition and desire.”
— New York Times
“Looking for the next Kate Atkinson or Alice Munro? Pick up this lovely novel.”
“Subtle....A story that doesn’t overreach, about a character who feels real, told in prose that isn’t ornate yet is startlingly exact. The effect is a fine and well-chosen pileup of experiences that gather meaning and power….Stella may not stand out, but Tessa Hadley certainly does.”
— Meg Wolitzer, New York Times Book Review
“Involving…. Intrigues and engages…. The smooth narrative echoes Hadley’s cool and precise prose.... There’s plenty of family drama (including murder) but Hadley’s strength is in describing what is often left unnoticed.”
— Financial Times (London)
“Ultimately, this is a beautiful and precisely drawn portrait of an everywoman, both extraordinary and ordinary.”
— Melanie Cremins, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“One woman’s story comes to exemplify a whole era in this marvelous novel. Tessa Hadley writes with a poet’s attentiveness to language, and finds the profound and wondrous in the seemingly quietest of lives.”
— Ron Rash, author of Serena
“With Clever Girl, Tessa Hadley examines the blunt force of young adulthood. She deftly portrays this short stretch of time in which we make many of the most important decisions of our lives, all while driving under the influence of ignorance and inchoate sexuality.”
— Carol Anshaw, author of Carry the One
“A rich, absorbing novel.”
— Anne Landsman, Vanity Fair
“Quietly brilliant….Hadley has always been adept at drawing out the unrecognisable from the everyday….Domestic fiction is often disparaged as less than serious, but Hadley demonstrates admirably that the genre can carry weight.”
— Sunday Times, London