Late in the Day
The lives of two close-knit couples are irrevocably changed by an untimely death in the latest from Tessa Hadley, the acclaimed novelist and short story master who “recruits admirers with each book” (Hilary Mantel).Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later, Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer’s evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia: she is at the hospital. Zach is dead.In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored; all agree that Zach, with his generous, grounded spirit, was the irreplaceable one they couldn’t afford to lose. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. But instead of loss bringing them closer, the three of them find over the following months that it warps their relationships, as old entanglements and grievances rise from the past, and love and sorrow give way to anger and bitterness.

Late in the Day Details

TitleLate in the Day
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 15th, 2019
PublisherHarper
ISBN-139780062476692
Rating
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, European Literature, British Literature

Late in the Day Review

  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    The two couples were the closest of friends—Alex and Christine, and Zach and Lydia. Before all four met each other, Lydia and Christine were friends from school, as were Alex and Zach. When they all were living in England, their families spent a great deal of time together, and even their daughters grew up together. While they each shared some similarities, each was very different from one another.One night, Alex and Christine plan for a quiet evening, when the idyll is broken by a phone call. L The two couples were the closest of friends—Alex and Christine, and Zach and Lydia. Before all four met each other, Lydia and Christine were friends from school, as were Alex and Zach. When they all were living in England, their families spent a great deal of time together, and even their daughters grew up together. While they each shared some similarities, each was very different from one another.One night, Alex and Christine plan for a quiet evening, when the idyll is broken by a phone call. Lydia is calling from the hospital to say that Zach died suddenly. The two are utterly shocked by Lydia's news, and rush quickly to tend to her, to tell Lydia and Zach's daughter, Grace, who is in school in Glasgow, and to handle the details that are necessary when such a tragedy occurs.How do you help a friend who is grieving the death of her husband when you, too, are grieving the death of a cherished friend? What words can convey support while not focusing too heavily on your own loss? Alex and Christine feel unmoored, as if a part of them has died, as jovial, big-hearted, creative Zach always seemed to bring rationality and heart into their relationships with one another. Lydia is unsure of what to do—she is unable to tend to Zach's affairs, or even process the thought of being alone in their house without him.Yet when Lydia moves in temporarily with Alex and Christine, being all together doesn't help assuage their grief. What it does instead is bring to the surface the difficulties in Alex and Christine's relationship, and unearth hidden feelings among the three of them which were buried a long time ago. Without Zach, the cracks become apparent in all of their relationships, but for a time they keep their peace out of respect for his death."Anyway, she didn't think any longer about the truth in that same way: as a core underneath a series of obfuscations and disguises. In the long run, weren't the disguises just as interesting, weren't they real too? She and Alex were so unlike, really: associated through some accident in their youth—the accident of his choosing her, because of what he thought she was. Since that beginning, they had both changed their skins so often. Marriage simply meant that you hung on to each other through the succession of metamorphoses. Or failed to."Shifting back and forth between the early days of their relationships and the present, Late in the Day is an examination of the strange ways grief manifests itself, how it reignites old passions, opens old wounds, and creates friction in places there never was any before. It's a look at how we think of close friends as part of our family, but yet there are times we realize friends are no substitute for our family.Tessa Hadley is a very talented writer, and she has a keen eye for dialogue and character development. From the very outset I predicted how the story would unfold, and I'll admit I was a little disappointed, because it seemed almost too predictable. I really never understood what the characters saw in each other except the pull of gravity keeping them together, and I felt that Lydia, Christine, and Alex were fairly unlikable, full of recriminations yet unwilling to say what's on their mind.I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. I found the pacing to be very slow (the flashbacks, while edifying as to how the characters got to where we are now, dragged on for far too long) and things seemed a bit disjointed at times. I also wasn't sure what message Hadley was sending with the way she tied things up. I read Hadley's The Past a number of years ago and found it very enjoyable, and I also enjoyed her collection of short stories, Bad Dreams and Other Stories . While Late in the Day wasn't a winner for me, I'll definitely keep reading Hadley's work, because I do love the way she writes.See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html. You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/yrralh/.
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    With each new book by Tessa Hadley, I grow more convinced that she’s one of the greatest stylists alive. The British author of seven novels and several story collections, Hadley regularly inspires such praise, but her success was hardly a foregone conclusion. Her first novel, “Accidents in the Home,” didn’t appear until she was 46, practically geriatric compared with those wunderkinds who secure contracts at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and graduate into a field of laurels.There are compensations, With each new book by Tessa Hadley, I grow more convinced that she’s one of the greatest stylists alive. The British author of seven novels and several story collections, Hadley regularly inspires such praise, but her success was hardly a foregone conclusion. Her first novel, “Accidents in the Home,” didn’t appear until she was 46, practically geriatric compared with those wunderkinds who secure contracts at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and graduate into a field of laurels.There are compensations, though, for achieving literary success later in life. Unable to sell her first stories while she was raising a family, Hadley went back to school and wrote a PhD thesis on Henry James. That long immersion in James’s canon offered a study of psychological acuity that now illuminates Hadley’s work. But her quietly elegant style and muted wit are triumphs all her own. To read Hadley’s fiction is to grow self-conscious in the best way: to recognize with astonishment the emotions playing behind our own expressions, to hear articulated our own inchoate anxieties.Her previous book, “The Past” — one of the best novels of 2016 — involves four adult siblings enjoying their last vacation in a summer cottage. It focuses on the passing of a beloved era, a melancholy transition that everyone knows will reshape their relations to each other.Her new novel, “Late in the Day,” zeros in on a similar, but more dire moment of adjustment that arrives with the speed of a swinging scythe. The story involves two married couples who have known each other since their university days. Lydia is married to Zachary, a wealthy man who owns a London art gallery. Christine is married to Alex, a poet who teaches at a primary school. On the opening page, Lydia calls from the hospital with news that Zachary has suffered a heart attack. Christine listens in alarm for several minutes before asking, “Are they going to operate?”“I told you,” Lydia says. . . .To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written! Two couples have been the best of friends since their twenties. For over thirty years, it’s been Zach and Lydia and Alex and Christine through it all. One night Christine and Alex receive a call from Lydia. Zach has unexpectedly passed away. Interestingly, all the friends agree that Zach was the best of the group. They put him on a posthumous pedestal and grief swallows their days. Lydia is having such a difficult time, Alex and Christine have her move in with them. But this Beautifully written! Two couples have been the best of friends since their twenties. For over thirty years, it’s been Zach and Lydia and Alex and Christine through it all. One night Christine and Alex receive a call from Lydia. Zach has unexpectedly passed away. Interestingly, all the friends agree that Zach was the best of the group. They put him on a posthumous pedestal and grief swallows their days. Lydia is having such a difficult time, Alex and Christine have her move in with them. But this closeness in their grief is not a good thing. Their friendships are now in jeopardy. Late in the Day is all about the characters, how they experience loss, and highlighting the complex dynamics of close relationships. The writing is beautiful and so easy to read. I also found it insightful, sensitive, and brilliant. Hadley exposed these characters’ innermost feelings, which are not always pretty or expected. Tessa Hadley has written an emotional tale of friendship and love, heartbreak and grief, with this intensely and intentionally drawn character study, relatable, very much human, characters, and an intricately woven dynamic of intimate relationships in adulthood. I loved this one! Thanks to Harper Books for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Remember the movie, “Bob & Carol & Ted and Alice”, the hit talk-about film in 1969?Let me refresh your memory: Two pseudo-liberal-thinking couples- friends for 30 years - had intimate - truth telling- conversations together.The movie is a comedy ....covering up tragedy below the surface. With the possibly of wife swamping - the 4 of them jump in bed together. Only 3 adults jumped into bed together in Tessa Hadley’s novel. After all, what are good friends for - (also a 30 year friendship) Remember the movie, “Bob & Carol & Ted and Alice”, the hit talk-about film in 1969?Let me refresh your memory: Two pseudo-liberal-thinking couples- friends for 30 years - had intimate - truth telling- conversations together.The movie is a comedy ....covering up tragedy below the surface. With the possibly of wife swamping - the 4 of them jump in bed together. Only 3 adults jumped into bed together in Tessa Hadley’s novel. After all, what are good friends for - (also a 30 year friendship) - if not to comfort a cold grieving friend? “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” .....Plus.....“Crossing to Safety”, by Wallace Stegner....each share similarities with each other. Stegner’s book is outstanding- (a personal favorite)...I’ve yet to read any book on friendships between two couples more masterfully written. I enjoyed parts of “Late in the Day”....but was craving the richness of “Crossing to Safety”. It’s easy to understand why “Late in The Day”, by Tessa Hadley is being compared to “Crossing to Safety”, though. These books have similar themes about marriage, parenthood, aging, the past, secrets, grievances, regrets, ......all in the context of exploring their friendships....But the reason I bring up the comedy “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”.... is because inHadley’s novel - I felt the moments of comic travesty......a similar emotion found in the movie with the two couples......yet not AS-IN-YOUR-FACE funny. ( too bad)I found myself quietly-laughing at absurdities in Hardly’s book...... the characters were sincere - but annoying.......self absorbed but the last to notice. Overall, .....”Late in the Day”, feels lost in the middle of other books. It lacks consistent AUTHENTIC RICH EMOTIONS like Stegner’s book ....Nor is it outrageously funny like Bob&Carol&Ted&Alice.....Sleepy - dull at times - mixed with endearing moments. A rolling coaster of both highs and lows....3 stars for part-time ENJOYMENT ....PROSE....CREATIVE EXAMINATION of relationships - life - and love..... but the dull flat moments were weeds that needing pulling. Given that understanding is sometimes the booby prize.....The wisdom I took away were in these few words..... “You can’t have everything”.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Hadley writes about the changing relationship dynamics between two couples from their mid-twenties into their middle age, and while she offers some fascinating observations about semi-conscious feelings of guilt, suspicion and resentment and also some gripping passages about grief, this book is overall lacking in force and urgency. The characters remain pale and sometimes even clichéd, and the explanations the author offers for her narrative decisions manage to make the whole experience ev Tessa Hadley writes about the changing relationship dynamics between two couples from their mid-twenties into their middle age, and while she offers some fascinating observations about semi-conscious feelings of guilt, suspicion and resentment and also some gripping passages about grief, this book is overall lacking in force and urgency. The characters remain pale and sometimes even clichéd, and the explanations the author offers for her narrative decisions manage to make the whole experience even worse. Our protagonists are two married couples, Alexandr & Christine and Zachary & Lydia. While the book starts with Zach's death, all four of them are equally important as the story unfolds and conveys numerous layers through elaborate flashbacks. I guess I am not giving away too much when I say that the erotic constellations between the protagonists have not always been like they are at the beginning of the book, and the death of Zachary works as a catalyst that reveals what has been hidden under the surface for years. To read about the shifting emotions would have been way more interesting though if the characters had been rendered with more depth: While Zach features as the wealthy gallery owner and provider, Alex is "the guy who fled communism" whose career as a school headmaster is still judged unfavorably because he should have become famous poet with his Central European mystery and all (whaaat?). At the same time, Lydia, who did nothing with her life except marrying rich guy Zach, is portrayed as glamorous, and Christine is an artist who does not want to become big because it's a damn hassle - it's so nice and cozy under that glass ceiling in the art world, so why break it? If you now say that there are too many clichés in this constellation, I wholeheartedly agree. I got the Indiespensable edition of the book that comes with an interview booklet, so I checked what Hadley's intentions were when she crafted these characters - a measure I regretted right away. Regarding the passive female characters and the questionable behavior displayed by Alex, she explains: "(...) it's a generational thing. I think the difference is we were so enthralled, as young women, to these handsome, radical, original men who were so free, in a way, and so unconventional, and yet sometimes also very tyrannical. "Tyrannical," that's a bit too much, but you know, they were not "new men."" This remark is topped off by "We shouldn't throw everything that women were away. It's no accident that so many great novelists of the 19th and the earlier 20th centuries made women their central, their core experiencing figures, because there is something about women's not being in the world which has made them dreamers, thinkers, experiencers." So tyrants are somehow exciting and being the subject of fiction because you're not in the world a.k.a. oppressed is somehow romantic? No. No. No. What is so upsetting about these female characters is that they are just floating along in their own lives, but you can certainly uphold that women like that do in fact exist. What's not correct though is that these characters stand for something bigger, or that the way these women behave, no, exist, should be romanticized as a beautiful thing from the past. To put up such different standards for men and women does not seem fair to the men either (Lydia: Beautiful, so that checks out; Alex: Beautiful, but where is his Nobel Prize?). And was it really necessary to absurdly exoticize Alex?All in all, this feels like a missed chance, because Hadley does have a gift for writing about changing feelings and dynamics between people - her language is evocative and subtle, I only wish that could also be said about her characters.
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  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Hadley is a master of her craft with writing that is consistently beautiful while seemingly effortless, displaying remarkable perception and uncanny insight when exploring human connection and the inner thoughts and feeling of her characters, never shying away from the faults and flaws found in an actual life. She is an author that never rings false to me, always exhibiting an honesty and, I suppose, an innate wisdom in her writing. Her new novel, which explores the way in which tragedy an Tessa Hadley is a master of her craft with writing that is consistently beautiful while seemingly effortless, displaying remarkable perception and uncanny insight when exploring human connection and the inner thoughts and feeling of her characters, never shying away from the faults and flaws found in an actual life. She is an author that never rings false to me, always exhibiting an honesty and, I suppose, an innate wisdom in her writing. Her new novel, which explores the way in which tragedy and loss can adversely affect the lives of longtime friends, is no exception. Hadley is uncanny in her ability to peel back the complex feelings and expose the often less than admirable reactions to the situation her characters face. The story, written in alternating chapters, looks at the characters in their impressionable youth, filled with passion and ideas, and the present day, the characters now older and, if not slightly disillusioned, certainly complacent with their situations until an unforeseen death (which occurs in the opening pages) upends their lives. It is a poignant look at love, commitment and that frequently inevitable question posed in later life regarding one’s purpose and accomplishments. Whether new to Hadley or a fan like myself, I hope readers find this a moving and satisfying novel.
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  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first Tessa Hadley, and it turns out I had totally the wrong idea about her. For some reason I thought she was dark and edgy and sardonic, but if Late in the Day is any indication, she's none of those things. This was a fairly standard domestic drama, but done quite well—maybe like a more dense and vivid Anne Tyler. Once it got going I was absorbed the whole time, but I can't say I was wowed, and I also thought the younger characters were pretty unconvincing. This is maybe a 3.5 for This was my first Tessa Hadley, and it turns out I had totally the wrong idea about her. For some reason I thought she was dark and edgy and sardonic, but if Late in the Day is any indication, she's none of those things. This was a fairly standard domestic drama, but done quite well—maybe like a more dense and vivid Anne Tyler. Once it got going I was absorbed the whole time, but I can't say I was wowed, and I also thought the younger characters were pretty unconvincing. This is maybe a 3.5 for me, but definitely not a four so I'm rounding down. I'd try another Tessa Hadley book but, sadly, I don't anticipate becoming a devoted fan.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Hadley's writing is like a specific taste - think cilantro, marzipan, or liver. You either like it immediately or it doesn't mesh with your tastes. I found myself trying very hard to get into the flow of the narrative but it was like an undertow. No matter how hard I tried to stay afoot, I kept going down. The novel begins with the death of Zachary, a charismatic man, cultured, strong and assured in every way, a gallery owner and part of the London art scene. Of all the people in his circl Tessa Hadley's writing is like a specific taste - think cilantro, marzipan, or liver. You either like it immediately or it doesn't mesh with your tastes. I found myself trying very hard to get into the flow of the narrative but it was like an undertow. No matter how hard I tried to stay afoot, I kept going down. The novel begins with the death of Zachary, a charismatic man, cultured, strong and assured in every way, a gallery owner and part of the London art scene. Of all the people in his circle, he was the one they never suspected would die, despite all of them getting on in years and having grown children. Despite his friends' beliefs in his near immortality, Zachary keels over in his gallery, hitting his head on his desk. Christine and Alex, Zachary and Lydia's closest friends, are listening to a piece of music by Mozart when the phone rings. It is Lydia, Zachary's wife, telling them about his death. She sounds as if she's half in shock while being quite histrionic at the same time. Christine wants to leave right away to be with Lydia but her husband, Alex, tells her they must wait for the Mozart piece to finish. This is where I paused - she actually listened to him?Lydia, Christine, Zachary, and Alex go way back to college days when they first met. Alex was a married French teacher whose class Lydia was in. Despite his not noticing her, Lydia devises a plot to steal Alex from his wife. Fast forward and now Alex is married to Christine. This is a very enmeshed group of friends. The night after Zachary's death, Christine finds Lydia standing at the foot of the bed she shares with Alex and invites her to join them, to lie between them both for the night. (I have to admit that I made notes on the inside of my book cover as to who was who and who they were with when.)Their children also play a part in the book. Lydia doesn't want to see Zachary's dead body while her art student daughter Grace wants to make a death mask of him. Grace also has a tremendous crush on Sam, Alex's son from his first marriage. Sam is now a famous musician and Grace's feelings are not reciprocated. This is all a very posh group, boarding school background and a lot of money, at least for Lydia and Zachary. I saw it as a 'cultured' version of 'The Big Chill' sans the fun and jollity. If you like the British upper crust, mostly humorless and full of themselves, this book might appeal to you. The characters are very self-absorbed, take their drama with their tea, and find themselves very interesting. Maybe they are an acquired taste and I'm wrong to compare the book to marzipan or cilantro. I have enjoyed some of Ms. Hadley's short stories but I think this novel, as it goes back and forth in time, describing characters I'd never want to know, is way off the mark.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Hadley masters the everyday in Late in the Day: everyday people living everyday lives in everyday situations. While not my life or the lives of people I know, Hadley’s characters and their lives are easily imaginable as real. Late in the Day does not transcend the everyday so much as help us to understand it. Late in the Day revolves around two long-married and intertwined couples who have known each other since their twenties: Christine and Alexandr, and Lydia and Zachary. The relationshi Tessa Hadley masters the everyday in Late in the Day: everyday people living everyday lives in everyday situations. While not my life or the lives of people I know, Hadley’s characters and their lives are easily imaginable as real. Late in the Day does not transcend the everyday so much as help us to understand it. Late in the Day revolves around two long-married and intertwined couples who have known each other since their twenties: Christine and Alexandr, and Lydia and Zachary. The relationship between Christine and Lydia—friends since college—forms part of the essential core of Late in the Day, and especially Lydia as understood through Christine’s perspective. ”As soon as she’d finished her last university exam, Lydia had stopped thinking about books in the critical language she’d had to learn for her degree; yet in her exams she’d done very well, almost as well as Christine. She spoke about that critical analysis as if it was a trick you could put on and off, for strategic purposes; this was bruising to Christine, who was betting her future on analysis. But then she was used to being bruised by Lydia, she didn’t mind.” And here also is Christine on Lydia: ”Christine was drawn to Lydia’s concentrated energy, which wasn’t turned outward but was like something unrealized, burning with a slow heat inside her. Her daring negativity opened up possibilities, promised adventures.”Another part of the essential core, and one which propels Late in the Day forward, is the evolution of the two marriages. Hadley writes her characters and their marriages with warmth and understanding: she treats them gently and with respect. In laying out the marriages and their changes, Hadley allows them “to be [themselves], while the rest of us are running round like idiots, because we’ve inherited a punishing puritanism.” There’s a refreshing moral neutrality to Late in the Day, and Hadley perfectly portrays the moral ambiguity of real life. While we may initially find ourselves easily approving or disapproving of her characters’ actions, but then Hadley surprises us with more information and introduces more moral shading.The third part of the essential core in Late in the Day are the three children in the two marriages. While they play important roles in the story and while they’re distinct and clear, they also seem more like reflections of the marriages rather than as individual characters standing on their own.Hadley seems to willfully reject any literary pyrotechnics: after all, this is an everyday story about everyday people. But even with her always straightforward prose and story-telling, Hadley memorably nails reflections. Here’s a college-aged Christine, before pairing off with Alex, reflecting on his poems: ”Their power was in the resistance they offered to any reading that was pretty or comforting.” And that, my GR friends, is a perfect description of, for example, every one of Jean Rhys’ novels. Here’s Christine again, reflecting on her marriage in terms almost like a Jungian archetype: ”In the long run, weren’t the disguises just as interesting, weren’t they real too? She and Alex were so unlike, really: associated through some accident in their youth — the accident of his choosing her, because of what he thought she was. Since that beginning, they had both changed their skins so often. Marriage simply meant that you hung on to each other through the succession of metamorphoses. Or failed to.” 4.5 stars
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Hadley is undoubtedly a master of her craft. The writing, in Late in the Day, is consistently measured, observant, beautiful and stark. In part, this is what made this a challenging read for me. Late in the Day is very much a novel of the everyday. Although hinged on significant moments, or turning points, much of the substance of this novel is ordinary lived experience. In that sense, this is a slow read, but ultimately I found myself propelled by the power of Hadley's skill with the writ Tessa Hadley is undoubtedly a master of her craft. The writing, in Late in the Day, is consistently measured, observant, beautiful and stark. In part, this is what made this a challenging read for me. Late in the Day is very much a novel of the everyday. Although hinged on significant moments, or turning points, much of the substance of this novel is ordinary lived experience. In that sense, this is a slow read, but ultimately I found myself propelled by the power of Hadley's skill with the written word, and insight into human nature.I understand and even share many of the criticisms of this novel that I have read, primarily that the characters at times (or consistently) seem passive, detached, not entirely real. However, ultimately, I didn't find this entirely problematic. What Hadley offers us, is an intense examination of ordinary long term relationships, both romantic and platonic. In some sense, the power of this examination is that it is possible for the reader to lay themselves, or those around them over the top of these characters and see elements of ourselves and our lives. As infuriating as passivity is, we are few of us consistently compelled to action. I was prepared to accept the unlikeable, frustrating parts of the characters, because I felt that in part, this allowed Hadley to present some compelling ideas.In the end, I was challenged, and engaged by this novel, which for me was a powerful observation of how we fasten ourselves to other people, and construct our identities around these bonds, and what it means when those bonds are broken.
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  • Lee
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5.)“Children threaded tactfully through the adults’ solemnity; patches of sunshine bloomed and withdrew on the floor tiles like tentative reassurances.”Totally absorbing and extremely likeable - the only real issue is the kids being so much less vivid than their elders. (I’m fact Grace and Isobel sound like two middle-aged women glibly impersonating ‘the kids’.)
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  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    I struggled a bit with this book as the characters all felt very flat to me. That, along with the sleepy, detached tone, took away from what was otherwise some lovely writing about the complex relationship between two married couples. Unfortunately, this book felt more like a story of ideas than a story about people.
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  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    [4.5*]I was absolutely mesmerized by this novel, even though one might argue that nothing much happens in it. I think a lot of it is due to the stunning writing - Tessa Hadley manages to use very few words to invoke a very vivid picture. These words are simple and arrange themselves beautifully together, as if that was how they were supposed to be, in these exact formations. The writing is almost transparent for the absence of adjectives, often crowding other writers' prose. Don't get me wrong, [4.5*]I was absolutely mesmerized by this novel, even though one might argue that nothing much happens in it. I think a lot of it is due to the stunning writing - Tessa Hadley manages to use very few words to invoke a very vivid picture. These words are simple and arrange themselves beautifully together, as if that was how they were supposed to be, in these exact formations. The writing is almost transparent for the absence of adjectives, often crowding other writers' prose. Don't get me wrong, I love lush writing too, if it is done well, but it is much harder to shape one's writing into something so beautiful using so little material.I think there is a lot here about life as a performance and the inability to truly know anyone else and sometimes even yourself. How can someone truly know us if we are hiding from ourselves? The nature of rituals and reactions towards grief is also very interesting. Do we cling onto these rituals and expected reactions for guidance on how to behave and how to feel when something has broken inside and we don't quite know what it is yet and how we are supposed to function without it? Was it something core to our being or something that can be repaired with time or something completely unimportant while we thought it was something crucial? Another topic explored is, of course, relationships among people who have known one another for a very long time and who spend a lot of time together. First, there are relationships within the couples - complex, ranging from love to hate and everything in between. Admittedly, we get more of Christine and Alex's relationship than that of Lydia and Zach, but that is only logical, considering Christine is the center of the narrative. Second, there are relationships between best friends, Christine and Lydia, Alex and Zach, where each of the pair is as different to their best friend as they are to their spouses, which I find an interesting juxtaposition. And finally, the relationships between each of them and their best friend's partner, which are revealed to be more complicated than seemed on the surface. While it is not to everybody's taste, these relationships feel very realistic to me. If you've ever been part of a close-knit mixed group, you know that all kinds of feelings usually flow among its members, as if there is a fixed amount of love that has to spread in some way within the group, sometimes ending up settled in place, some other times moving relentlessly in various directions, looking for the best possible configuration. We act on these feelings more eagerly when we are younger, yet they do not quite disappear with age, just become subdued under the weight of obligations and expectations and mere tiredness. However, external shocks can sometimes change the balance. I think Tessa Hadley explores this wonderfully.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Hadley gets top marks for the artistry of her writing. There are many, many lovely sentences and well-structured passages. (I did find her excessive use of one particular punctuation mark distracting; let's just say she favors a High Colonic style.). Her skill is also evident in the way she explores the messy paradoxes and irrevocable missteps that complicate amorous relationships. For those reasons this was an interesting read. Unfortunately I did not care for (or, worse yet, about) any of the Hadley gets top marks for the artistry of her writing. There are many, many lovely sentences and well-structured passages. (I did find her excessive use of one particular punctuation mark distracting; let's just say she favors a High Colonic style.). Her skill is also evident in the way she explores the messy paradoxes and irrevocable missteps that complicate amorous relationships. For those reasons this was an interesting read. Unfortunately I did not care for (or, worse yet, about) any of the featured characters. And I am definitely not sorry it's over.3.5 stars
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 I had some fairly strong adverse reactions to this book early on. The characters are not people I would enjoy hanging out with, the social milieu seemed very arty, monied and privileged. I was determined I would sneer and eye-roll my way to the end. However, gradually the book crept up on me, I stopped trying to like or understand these people, I decided to take my pleasure almost entirely from Hadley's wonderful word-smithery. There were many passages that captured for me some essential ge 3.5 I had some fairly strong adverse reactions to this book early on. The characters are not people I would enjoy hanging out with, the social milieu seemed very arty, monied and privileged. I was determined I would sneer and eye-roll my way to the end. However, gradually the book crept up on me, I stopped trying to like or understand these people, I decided to take my pleasure almost entirely from Hadley's wonderful word-smithery. There were many passages that captured for me some essential gender dynamics, for example : She was too impressed by so many clever men talking and joking, so well-informed and witty. Their sheer physical bulk and confidence and careless loud voices were impressive in themselves, along with their liberating indifference to their appearance ....Christine felt her female intelligence as fatally self-conscious. She puzzled over her ideas with genuine interest during the day, yet when she brought them out in conversation in the evening she couldn’t help being aware of what she was wearing and how she might appear. Didn’t that undermine her authenticity? Reading that back out of context it seems a little obvious but when I encountered it in the novel ( the scene is a pub ) it resonated quite strongly with me. There were many other little ah, yes I recognise that moments scattered around that I started to change my mind about the book. However, it is always problematic when a novel that is about relationships fails to present you with any entirely believable examples - however that is always a matter of perspective, maybe I have yet to meet a real life Christine and Alex ?
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  • Nicky
    January 1, 1970
    3.5* “You could not have everything: the whole wisdom of life amounted to that. Whatever you had, was instead of something else.”
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    The more you know about an author, the better you can understand and appreciate their work. Late in the Day, the title, could apply to Hadley as well as to her characters, and knowing a bit of her history, of her coming to novelizations later than most, goes well to inform the reader of why she is so insightful in her creation of characters mature in outlook and experience. The two couples that form the nucleus of this book are prime examples. Although they met while young and developed close al The more you know about an author, the better you can understand and appreciate their work. Late in the Day, the title, could apply to Hadley as well as to her characters, and knowing a bit of her history, of her coming to novelizations later than most, goes well to inform the reader of why she is so insightful in her creation of characters mature in outlook and experience. The two couples that form the nucleus of this book are prime examples. Although they met while young and developed close alliances under different circumstances, each of the four is presented flaws and all in their self examinations and responses to one another. The death of one of them in the first pages sets in motion upheavals that reverberate throughout until the final page, the final revelation. Having read and appreciated this book, I plan on revisiting some of Hadley's earlier works and giving them a second chance.Addendum: Last night I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Ms. Hadley. She is charming, forthcoming, and generous with her experience. One of my favorite take-aways was her delight in houses, setting the scene, how with only a few observations, a writer can create a stage upon which to set her players.
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  • Anita Pomerantz
    January 1, 1970
    Hadley is a writer I will definitely be trying again. Her writing is very thought provoking while still being straightforward. This story takes a very realistic look at the lives of two couples, Christine and Alex, Lydia and Zachary, who have known one another since their college years. When one member of the foursome dies, their dynamic shifts, but frankly in ways that are foreshadowed by the years before. Hadley is very impressive in terms of how she moves the reader from the past to the prese Hadley is a writer I will definitely be trying again. Her writing is very thought provoking while still being straightforward. This story takes a very realistic look at the lives of two couples, Christine and Alex, Lydia and Zachary, who have known one another since their college years. When one member of the foursome dies, their dynamic shifts, but frankly in ways that are foreshadowed by the years before. Hadley is very impressive in terms of how she moves the reader from the past to the present, building up the relationships between the four protagonists. Her insights on the human condition are terrific, and I highlighted so many lines in my Kindle version.Unfortunately, as much as I liked the writing itself, this book had the feel of a long form version of a short story to me. Even though I was given so much information about the characters, I never felt an emotional connection to any of them. In a short story, I don't really mind that lack of intimacy with the characters, but here I did. Even though I understood the choices made by the characters and the motivations underpinning them, I never felt emotionally invested. The characters all lacked charisma, except unfortunately, the one who dies. Upon his death, the lynchpin of the relationships was removed, and that let them spin in a new direction . . .but somehow it just seemed clinical to me.The next book I reach for will be Hadley's short stories because I have a feeling with her tight, thoughtful prose and intellect, that I will love those.
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  • Suzy
    January 1, 1970
    I love Tessa Hadley's quiet observations of where life can take people. I noticed on a recent rereading of my reviews of the other books I've read by her (Clever Girl, The London Train and The Past) I've said in each that she is brilliant at writing about how "life is curly, not lived in a straight line". True here as well, and I can add, for this one, how life often plays out in ways that divert from what people expect. In Late in the Day the focus is on two married couples, Alex and Christine I love Tessa Hadley's quiet observations of where life can take people. I noticed on a recent rereading of my reviews of the other books I've read by her (Clever Girl, The London Train and The Past) I've said in each that she is brilliant at writing about how "life is curly, not lived in a straight line". True here as well, and I can add, for this one, how life often plays out in ways that divert from what people expect. In Late in the Day the focus is on two married couples, Alex and Christine and Zachary and Lydia, who are also longtime friends. We enter the story on the day that Zach suddenly drops dead of a heart attack when all are in their early 50's. We learn the stories of their past together as well as what happens to the remaining three in chapters that alternate between when they all met in their 20's and going forward from Zachary's death. A meditation on grief and a portrayal of how the death of a beloved and important figure in a group can irrevocably change the lives of those who remain. Why I'm reading this: I love Tessa Hadley's writing, which I have described as "quiet brilliance". Such a wonderful way with words in making the day-to-day of domestic life somehow thrilling.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    It opens with a death right in the middle of (possibly) Schubert. We are about to meet all the London characters, and the dead man, Zachary, going back and forth in time to include a quartet of married friends and their three adult children (two are younger adults) and then the shock and grief when he leaves them behind. The death, unlike the music, is certain.Zachary’s death was sudden and unexpected, his wife, Lydia, broken in pieces. These are friendships that go back thirty-plus years. Hadle It opens with a death right in the middle of (possibly) Schubert. We are about to meet all the London characters, and the dead man, Zachary, going back and forth in time to include a quartet of married friends and their three adult children (two are younger adults) and then the shock and grief when he leaves them behind. The death, unlike the music, is certain.Zachary’s death was sudden and unexpected, his wife, Lydia, broken in pieces. These are friendships that go back thirty-plus years. Hadley has a particular style—delicate and filled with the gentle piquancy of art in the midst of all that is despairing, which anchors the story and also gives it an ethereal quality. You don’t read Hadley for the plot or action—you read it for the characters and story, layers of complex human psychology, the vibrations of life, life itself in somber tones.“In her mind she understood how sex and death were both part of the mystery of entrances and exits, both opening onto this same strange place where they all belonged now, in the sudden shadow of Zachary’s death.” And that is the locus, or the abyss, of these four lives (and their children, to a degree). The novel is primarily an internal, meditative narrative for the reader, but also how our actions have long-term consequences.There’s a chapter chunk in Venice, Italy, which is rendered exquisitely by Hadley. It brought me back to my time there, and she captured the light and colors so beautifully that it felt physical, palpable. On the cover, within the title, is likely pieces of the Tiepolo ceiling in the Scuola dei Carmini. In this poignant backdrop, a mirror is held up to the past, both literally and figuratively, which brings the past, present, and future into stark relief for two art lovers and close friends. It’s the scene in the book I have read multiple times, and, like a bouillon cube, it concentrates the narrative to represent the essence of the grand theme. I won’t give anything away, as it is imperative for the readers to alight on their own discoveries.This is a novel for Hadley fans and literature lovers, so be forewarned that the movement is often inward, but the stakes are high, the cost steep, and the outcome inescapable.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    2.5, rounded up.This is only my second Hadley, the first being her previous novel The Past, which I somewhat grudgingly liked. This one I found more problematic - the material (adultery!) a bit more shopworn and done to death, the characters less sympathetic and a bit artificial. Hadley would seem incapable of writing prose that isn't eminently readable, but I just was never terribly enthralled by anything here. The structure, in which chapters set in the present are interspersed with those from 2.5, rounded up.This is only my second Hadley, the first being her previous novel The Past, which I somewhat grudgingly liked. This one I found more problematic - the material (adultery!) a bit more shopworn and done to death, the characters less sympathetic and a bit artificial. Hadley would seem incapable of writing prose that isn't eminently readable, but I just was never terribly enthralled by anything here. The structure, in which chapters set in the present are interspersed with those from the past, also seemed a bit hackneyed, and those chapters in memory almost superfluous to the proceedings. A disappointment.
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  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not saying that the past was good, she went on, – or fair, or better, or anything. But nothing will ever be more beautiful than this, will it? It's surpassingly beautiful. In the opening pages of Late in the Day, we are introduced to Christine and Alex in their London flat as they listen to classical music after dinner, a novel held but unread, a darkening sky contemplated out the window; the perfect vignette of privilege and repose (although even here, there are a few hints of cracks in th I'm not saying that the past was good, she went on, – or fair, or better, or anything. But nothing will ever be more beautiful than this, will it? It's surpassingly beautiful. In the opening pages of Late in the Day, we are introduced to Christine and Alex in their London flat as they listen to classical music after dinner, a novel held but unread, a darkening sky contemplated out the window; the perfect vignette of privilege and repose (although even here, there are a few hints of cracks in the veneer: Alex chose the music without consultation, and Christine refuses to ask him what it is because “he took too much pleasure in knowing what she didn't know”). The phone rings and it is their friend Lydia, calling to inform them that her husband dropped dead at work – and the peaceful vignette is smashed apart. Christine thinks, “Unheard of for anything to harm Zachary. He was a rock, he was never ill. No, nothing so numb as a rock: striding cheerful giant with torrents of energy.” As Alex would later say, “The loss is so much more, we can't even...to take his death as yet more evidence of the supreme shitty law of life that takes away the best and uplifts the worst.” Kind and garrulous, rich and generous, patron and defender of the arts, it doesn't take the reader long to realise that Zachary was the linchpin that held this group together; not long to realise that their four lives had intertwined even further back than the dramatic opening had suggested. With Zachary gone, and Lydia helpless and numb, Christine and Alex invite her to stay with them for as long as needed – forcing decades-old undercurrents to bubble to the surface.The book is divided into seven long chapters, and alternate between the present and the past. We learn that Christine and Lydia attended grammar school together (attracted to one another as the only two girls who regarded their elitist education with irony; reading The Communist Manifesto on lunch breaks and mocking the Founders Commemoration Day together), and that Alex and Zachary met at boarding school, where Alex's history as the son of a dissident Czech novelist made him just enough of an outcast for Zach's large patrician heart to embrace as a foundling. The foursome meet when the girls take a French course that the older Alex is teaching in college, and Lydia is immediately attracted to the brooding intellectual who seems to be the only man immune to her beauty and charm. Although she had initially tried to set Christine up with Alex's friend Zach, when Lydia – a queenly idler from modest roots who could both turn her critical thinking on and off and luxuriate in her own selfishness – learned that the fabulously wealthy man was actually interested in her, she scooped him up and they were soon married. Not long after, Alex – who had written one volume of poetry before disdaining his muse – went after Christine, and although she was afraid of “the force of his manner, his knowledge and inexorable critical judgment”, she also “felt the glow too, the golden good fortune of being chosen”. As Christine drops her PhD in English for a career as a painter, Alex decides to become a schoolteacher – which he is very good at, and which he finds fulfilling – Zach and Lydia move to NYC and home again, eventually opening an art gallery in a converted centuries old chapel, where Zach finds every opportunity to promote Christine's work. Each couple has a daughter of similar age, who have inherited an intriguing combination of their parents' traits, and Alex also has a son from his first marriage to an actress. I know I said I didn't want to give away too much of the plot, but this barely scratches the surface.The point-of-view moves fluidly and omnisciently through the characters over time, but primarily, this feels like Christine's story, and she's the one I had the most empathy for. Always a conciliator, Christine is constantly explaining away Lydia's egotism as a charming trait, and whenever Alex makes one of his prickly intellectual pronouncements, Christine tries to smooth the situation with gentle irony – which nearly always leads to a massive fight. We see how, in the past, Zachary's presence was able to make things right in these situations, but with him gone in the present, everything is out of balance. I want to preserve here just one example of how Hadley interplays the past and present, with Christine's thoughts from today: Long ago, when Isobel was a baby, Christine had fought Alex for her life, so that he would acknowledge that in the domain of the mind they were equals, separate as equals. She couldn't remember now why this had mattered so much, or where her appetite had come from for those long late-night sessions, prising away layer upon layer of resistance and falsity, confession matched with counter-confession. And a scene from the past that undercuts everything that she now believes (even if she'll never know about it): Chris' work, for instance, Zachary persisted, wanting to persuade his friend in this moment of openness between them. He wanted to open it wider: embrace the women inside their intimacy. – How has she been able to make her art so freely? It's poured out of her, hasn't it? Why hasn't she felt the heavy hand (of history) on her shoulder? Alex looked startled, before a shutter fell across his expression, across some secret. It took him aback, Zachary saw, to have Christine's work invoked in the same scale as anything he, Alex, might have done. Zachary was startled too. He hadn't known that Alex didn't take his wife's work quite seriously: didn't, in their horrible old schoolboy phrase, really rate it. He must have only been kind, and condescending, and keeping a domestic peace, when he had acquiesced for all these years in seeming to rate it. The implications of Alex's mistake – Zachary was sure it was a mistake – seemed for a moment fairly tragic. And the night's happy mutuality deflated, each man was disappointed in the other. – As you say, Alex said drily, but with finality, as if it were the end of any discussion he wanted to have. – It pours out of her. There is beautiful landscape writing (the part set in Venice was incredibly charming), relatable motivations, and big questions explored. Through music, literature, and painting, Hadley examines humanity through the lenses of art – it was uplifting to watch the widowed Lydia discard her usual pulp fiction reads for some nonfiction that showed her a “revelation of the framework underpinning things” and that set her mind afire with ideas and connections – and these passages felt natural and of the characters. I loved the dialogue, and the format, and the plot. I loved the whole thing.
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  • Katie Long
    January 1, 1970
    This took a far more melancholy tone than I was expecting. I was picturing a group of friends late in life, wistfully looking back on their years of friendship. Instead though, these friends are middle aged and instead of wistful nostalgia, there is much more doubt and regret.
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  • Libby
    January 1, 1970
    I was absolutely blown away by Tessa Hadley’s writing style in Late in the Day. Intrigued from the very first page with the slow burn of tension, the intuitive understanding of marital relationships,the deep loyalties and limitations of friendships, as well as the beauty and depth of her prose; it was pure pleasure to sink into these pages. As well as beauty, her story reveals the profound sadness we all feel at loss; the absolute grief when the beloved is absent, silent at the last. With the k I was absolutely blown away by Tessa Hadley’s writing style in Late in the Day. Intrigued from the very first page with the slow burn of tension, the intuitive understanding of marital relationships,the deep loyalties and limitations of friendships, as well as the beauty and depth of her prose; it was pure pleasure to sink into these pages. As well as beauty, her story reveals the profound sadness we all feel at loss; the absolute grief when the beloved is absent, silent at the last. With the keenness of grief, the bare bones of death, secrets may be laid bare, even secrets we have held from ourselves.Lydia Smith and Christine Drinkwater meet at school. Lydia becomes enamored with her married French class professor, Alexandr Klimec. When Alex's marriage dissolves, he still seems unavailable. Even though Lydia, and therefore Christine, have been going to the bar where they know he’ll be, he is not interested in Lydia, who's somewhat of a siren. However, Alex’s friend, Zachary Samuels is falling in love with Lydia. These people seem to become who they are in part through their friendships. The two men are vastly different as are the two women, and it’s such a wonderfully in-depth and complex character study, that it made me think of my own friendships and the impact they’ve had on me. Lydia eventually marries Zachary, and later Alex will marry Christine; four people who will generously share their lives together and their daughters will become fast friends. The novel opens as Alex, a would-be writer, who has become a teacher, and Christine, an artist, share an evening at home. Immediately Hadley casts a web of drama, showing us a little bit of the marital tension, but some sweetness as well. With a mise-en-scène that effectively pans the world she creates, Hadley invokes rich visual imagery, sounds, and smells. Then there’s the ring of the phone. Jarring; all of a sudden their world is off kilter. My favorite character is Zachary. Lovely, lovely man. Enthusiastic and dear, Christine thinks that good things happen to him simply because he expects them to. Hadley will weave the narrative between the present day and the past, filling the reader in on all that happens before the opening evening, and the unanticipated phone call. She makes it all feel poignant, the 20/20 vision we’ll need to see everything clearly. Close to the end, I started thinking, how is she going to pull this together? Bittersweet, I think; of course, the ending is perfect.
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this novel about two middle-aged, middle-class British couples, friends for decades, and the changes and reconfigurations that occur after one of the foursome dies unexpectedly...but I’m not sure the story will stick with me beyond next week.
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  • Claire Fuller
    January 1, 1970
    Two middle-aged couples (Christine and Alex, and Lydia and Zachary) have been friends for many years, when suddenly Zachary dies. This novel is about the repercussions of his death and how that changes the relationships of the three that are left. It's a study of character (the plot is very slight), but Hadley writes the nuances, the inconsistencies, the foibles of character - whether that's the main ones, or more minor players - so brilliantly. How her characters speak, think and move makes the Two middle-aged couples (Christine and Alex, and Lydia and Zachary) have been friends for many years, when suddenly Zachary dies. This novel is about the repercussions of his death and how that changes the relationships of the three that are left. It's a study of character (the plot is very slight), but Hadley writes the nuances, the inconsistencies, the foibles of character - whether that's the main ones, or more minor players - so brilliantly. How her characters speak, think and move makes them completely whole and human: Sandy, a young child, 'wept and pressed himself against the crack in the door as if he could squeeze through it after his mother'.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    PointlessA horribly boring story about horrible, unlikable people. I also hated the affected and awkward writing style. Don't waste your time.
  • hayden
    January 1, 1970
    i think it's safe to say i'm becoming quite the tessa hadley devotee – i've got claire fuller to thank for that – because even this novel, which is my least favorite of hers so far, i'd happily read again.the opening was a bit sticky – things were happening before i knew exactly who they were happening to and what it meant for them – but after the first chapter or so, things smoothed out and the story became enjoyable. as always, with her eagle eye, hadley brings things out of people i'd never s i think it's safe to say i'm becoming quite the tessa hadley devotee – i've got claire fuller to thank for that – because even this novel, which is my least favorite of hers so far, i'd happily read again.the opening was a bit sticky – things were happening before i knew exactly who they were happening to and what it meant for them – but after the first chapter or so, things smoothed out and the story became enjoyable. as always, with her eagle eye, hadley brings things out of people i'd never see myself, and she walks us through them so beautifully, turning a sparsely-plotted story into an engaging read. i'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly that turned me off during the second half – maybe a slightly-too-long instance set in the past, or a secondary character given a tad too much attention.i've got everything hadley's ever published sitting in my room, and i'll be working through it in the next couple weeks.
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  • Jessica Sullivan
    January 1, 1970
    Married couples Alex and Christine and Zach and Lydia have been friends since their 20s. Now, 30 years later, Zach dies suddenly, causing a rift in the dynamic.Alternating between the past and the present, Hadley explores the complex history of these four friends.Long-term relationships are complicated, and I like books that immerse themselves in that reality. Hadley has plenty of sharp and observant insights on friendship, marriage and adulthood—and I enjoyed all of that. The thing is, the pres Married couples Alex and Christine and Zach and Lydia have been friends since their 20s. Now, 30 years later, Zach dies suddenly, causing a rift in the dynamic.Alternating between the past and the present, Hadley explores the complex history of these four friends.Long-term relationships are complicated, and I like books that immerse themselves in that reality. Hadley has plenty of sharp and observant insights on friendship, marriage and adulthood—and I enjoyed all of that. The thing is, the present parts of the book were much more engaging than the past, and I often lost interest in the latter. The additional focus on the couples’ adult children further distracted from the most compelling aspects of the story.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    There were times when I did not know whether I could separate personal experience from my love of this novel, but Hadley is so brilliant that I was able to do so. Two couples with nearly lifelong friendships become unmoored when when one dies unexpectedly. The characters become real almost immediately, and the plotting is terrific.
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