After the Funeral by Tessa Hadley - review by Kathy O’Shaughnessy

Kathy O’Shaughnessy

What the Doctor Ordered

After the Funeral

By

Jonathan Cape 227pp £18.99
 

Beginning with Accidents in the Home in 2002, Tessa Hadley has gradually established herself as the pre-eminent novelist of British middle-class life. Gems include The Past (2015), a gloriously living portrait of siblings adjusting to each other in middle age, and the recent Free Love, which caught the winds of 1960s change. Now comes After the Funeral, her fourth collection of stories.

Set in the 1970s, 1980s and early 2000s, the stories’ timespans vary: each one might cover a summer, two hours or several years. Fortunes change, small events release an entire history and understanding crystallises. With psychological acuity and a free imagination, Hadley explores the inner dramas that shape her characters’ emotional lives.

In the title story, a father dies, leaving a wife, Marlene, who can’t cope, and her two daughters. The elder, Charlotte, takes charge: when Marlene gets a job as a medical receptionist, it’s Charlotte who comes after school to sort out her files. Things become difficult when Marlene

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