Ophelia Field

Stages of Life

The Past

By Tessa Hadley

Jonathan Cape 361pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The Past centres on four adult siblings and their families as they gather at their late grandparents’ country house for the summer. It opens with one sibling worrying whether strangers might think she is the mother or lover of the young man beside her. Tessa Hadley approaches this broad theme – where we stand in relation to the stages of life – from different directions throughout the novel, often emphasising the gulfs that separate the old, the young, the adolescent and the middle-aged, as if human beings metamorphose into different species as they age.

In the house, the sexual tension between a university student and a sixteen-year-old when they ‘encounter

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