x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Married Love: a story of consequence following actions

Tessa Hadley scratches at the sores of multiple lives in a collection of stories about the chattering classes.

Each of the dozen stories collected in Tessa Hadley’s Married Love begins with an opening line that crackles with anticipation: “Their parents had fantastic parties, they were famous for it,” reads one. “Albert Arno, the film director, dropped dead at his home in the middle of a sentence,” reveals another.

Hadley’s previous novel The London Train confirmed the author’s credentials as a confident commentator on the ebbs and flows of Britain’s chattering classes, with their big houses and equally large worries. In Married Love, she scratches once more at the sores of multiple lives in a collection of stories that are rarely less than absorbing, as they shift from the present day to the past.

In the book’s titular tale, 19-year-old Lottie is revealed to have lost her heart to a sixtysomething academic. But the shock of the new is not Hadley’s primary concern here. Instead, she teases out a story of consequences following actions, of the challenging realities of married life (and babies) between two people separated by an unbridgeable age gap. And, indeed, of the occasional contradictions between those two words: “married” and “love”.