I have not read Tessa Hadley before, but I do have more than one of her books on my wishlist. I have to say this novel was a bit different. It's written almost like a diary or a memoir where she is retelling her story. She was a young girl growing up in the 60's in England. Her father is dead (but she wonders if he really is) and her mom is single. Her mother eventually remarries and moves Stella to the suburbs. She always seems a bit of an outcast, but finds a place in the new generation. She becomes a sort of hippie. There is sex and drugs without commitment. She moves along in her life determined to not be her mother--to be more, because she is clever. She has two children without being married and no real support system in place. Stella eventually finds her way.
For me CLEVER GIRL is a mixed bag. Tessa Hadley had me thoroughly convinced with Stella's story. Completely believable. I can't say I liked Stella nor can I say I thought she made good decisions, but Tessa wrote a character who felt so true and Stella was always true to character. Not only was Stella's character real, but the world around her. I could almost feel the avocado shag carpeting under my feet as I read. I was transported into Stella's story. I didn't like Stella. I wanted better for Stella. But Stella carves out a life, which is true to her. It's hard to explain, you have to read it.
I felt I walked away from CLEVER GIRL understanding people a bit more. Her choices and life path are foreign to me, but she made me respect her differences. I feel like I understand a generation I didn't know before. For as much as I didn't like the story, I loved it. For as much as I didn't like Stella, I loved her. I recommend you take a trip to your local bookstore and open CLEVER GIRL up. This isn't a 'typical' read, not a 'typical' story. It is very good, but may not be for everyone. I do want to say I think you should take time and read a few chapters. CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley is the exact reason why I became a book reviewer. I knew I wanted to experience new genres and writing techniques, I may have otherwise not tried. If you are looking for a more unique experience in your reading selections, than I recommend CLEVER GIRL.
What others are saying about CLEVER GIRL by Tessa Hadley:
“Hadley displays the keen insight and masterful portrayal of the domestic life for which she has become known.”
“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.”
“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.”
Sunday Times (London)
“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.”