Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley - review by James Kidd

James Kidd

Stella Performance

Clever Girl

By

(Jonathan Cape 309pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Clever Girl, Tessa Hadley’s seventh book, has its share of sensational aspects. There are no fewer than two murders, a heroine with a rich romantic life (marriage, affairs both straight and lesbian), a foundling child (and two other sons by different partners) and a supposedly dead father back from the grave. But, as in Hadley’s previous fiction, what holds the attention is not a dramatic, twisting tale providing sudden revelations but an intimate narrative voice that renders people, places and experiences in vivid detail. 

This is a coming-of-age story that takes almost half a century to unfurl, and even at its conclusion shows little sign of any clear arrival. Its plot is suitably saggy and frayed; loose ends abound. These reflect no carelessness on Hadley’s part. As her nuanced sentences suggest, she is too

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