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