Standalone. HarperCollins (March 2014) TLC Book Tours
Clever Girl is an indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today, from one of Britain’s leading literary lights—Tessa Hadley—the author of the New York Times Notable Books Married Love and The London Train.
Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin, Tessa Hadley brilliantly captures the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives—an ability to transform the mundane into the sublime that elevates domestic fiction to literary art.Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an English woman named Stella. Unfolding in a series of snapshots, Tessa Hadley’s moving novel follows Stella from the shallows of childhood, growing up with a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s, into the murky waters of middle age.
Clever Girl is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama—violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yet it is Hadley’s observations of everyday life, her keen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles.
Clever Girl follows our main character, Stella, through all her struggles, decisions, and mistakes. You see the course of her life as if she was retelling it at an old age. There is a great deal of pain in her life caused by others and her own flaws. You get to know her in a very intimate, personal way. She's an ordinary woman that goes through life making the same mistakes that everyone else does. By having this story about someone who could be anyone there was a sense of connection I felt towards Stella. With all her faults and mistakes I couldn't help think about my own life and how I'll decide to live it. Even if someone knows what they want they can get sidetracked like Stella ultimately does at a very young age. Young love, early pregnancies to two fathers that aren't or can't be around, Stella faces it alone with the help of some strangers and some friends from time to time. She kind of becomes her mother which if pretty funny because I think that's what daughters (and even me) fear is going to happen to them. It's also funny when she starts mentioning her sons at points of the story even before they are born since her second born is clearly exactly like her wild, angry-at-the-world self.
Stella has an argumentative, push-and-pull personality and relationship as she develops in her teen years. You could just see where everything was going to go downhill. She was hanging around a boy who of course her mother and stepfather didn't approve of. Stella has never approved of her stepfather. Her angry side really came out when he came into the mix. I think when you're a teenager you go through this transition where you are pissed at your parents, the world, and everyone in it. You see only what you want. We don't really grow out of our selfishness that kids inherently have in them. I saw myself in the way she acted when she was younger. I wasn't nearly as rebellious, my rebelliousness was pretty much nonexistent - it was there in spirit, but I could still see the selfishness of not wanting to grow up that I'm sure many people grapple with.
You see her mature out of this stage of standoffishness towards others but you also see the mistakes she continues to make. I wanted to tell her to stop! You have something good. Stop messing it up. There's this air of sadness that comes with her life yet she does try her hardest to make her life better for her and her sons. She struggles so much! This story could be really tragic at times. There are those moments where she gets away from that sadness and I love those moments. I wanted to see her succeed. This book produced so much overwhelming emotions in me. It's a really great story about growing up and overcoming all the things thrown at you in life including your own misguided ways.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours, the author, and the publisher for letting me read and review Clever Girl in exchange for an honest review!