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Free Love by Tessa Hadley
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Free Love

$24.92 USD

Get for $14.99 with membership
Narrator Abigail Thaw
Length 9 hours 1 minutes
Language English
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A compulsive new novel about one woman’s sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London.

1967. While London comes alive with the new youth revolution, the suburban Fischer family seems to belong to an older world of conventional stability: pretty, dutiful homemaker Phyllis is married to Roger, a devoted father with a career in the Foreign Office. Their children are Colette, a bookish teenager, and Hugh, the golden boy.

But when the twenty-something son of an old friend pays the Fischers a visit one hot summer evening, and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden after dinner, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Nothing in these ordinary lives is so ordinary after all, it turns out, as the family’s upheaval mirrors the dramatic transformation of the society around them.

With scalpel-sharp insight, Tessa Hadley explores her characters’ inner worlds, laying bare their fears and longings. Daring and sensual, Free Love is an enthralling, irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our lives.

Tessa Hadley is the author of seven highly praised novels, Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, Everything Will Be All Right, The Master Bedroom, The London Train, Clever Girl, The Past and Late in the Day, and three collections of stories, Sunstroke, Married Love and Bad Dreams. The Past won the Hawthornden Prize for 2016, and Bad Dreams won the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She lives in London and is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker and other magazines.

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Reviews

PRAISE FOR FREE LOVE:
“Her novels are masterful domestic dramas that obsess over the mechanics of adultery and illicit passion…. Yet if Hadley is drawn to these moments of intense rupture—and who isn’t?—what makes her exceptional is her writing of their consequences, which are often both more, and less, earth-shattering than they initially seemed…. In Free Love, these domestic embroilments become intermingled with tides of cultural and political change, but forces she scrutinizes most closely remain those of the heart. Hadley is, as always, masterfully tracking the contours of desire to its end point and beyond. All of it is aftermath.”The Nation

Free Love is beautifully structured and brilliantly paced. It displays Tessa Hadley’s extraordinary skill at making both surface life and deep interiors come fully alive.... Phyllis Fischer’s quest for love and escape is created with drama and excitement, but also with slow care and real delicacy and sympathy.—Colm Toibin

Hadley’s complex sentences are purring marvels of engineering, always weighted just so. . . . A brilliant writer of interiority who can also do great scenes, she has a gift, especially, for portraying the state of wanting to be wanted, or simply to be seen—a recurring longing in her fiction, whose characters often have cause to be careful what they wish for. . . . [A]lmost every page [of Free Love] struck me anew with some elegant phrasing, feline irony or shrewdly sympathetic insight. The real wonder is that she does this pretty much every three years; it’s easy to become ungrateful.” —Anthony Cummins, The Guardian

“Tessa Hadley . . . has few rivals in portraying the dynamics of families and the intricate weave of emotional affiliations among members. She is a genius at capturing fugitive thoughts and memories, the propulsive energy of desire, and the provisional reasoning that constitute inner being. Her plots, though often marked by a stunning revelation, are not where the dramatic action is; that occurs within the characters themselves.” The Wall Street Journal

“Tessa Hadley is my favourite author.” —Kate Atkinson

"A brilliant work of fiction that takes on big topics like marriage and infidelity, delivers Alice Munro levels of insight into the human soul and is novel I missed when it was over. A perfect read for book clubs!"
—Marissa Stapley, author of Lucky (on Twitter)

"A domestic novel of manners, erotic abandon and cultural change, Free Love is as eclectic and alive as the times it captures.” —NPR

"In keen, lush prose, Hadley conveys the many ways her characters delude themselves amid fraught relationships between parents and children as well as between lovers. The result is sumptuous and surprising."
Publishers Weekly

“[Hadley] has always excelled in the art of subtle storytelling, elevating the private plot of an ordinary life to something universal and staggering. Essential human stories, dissected and held up to the light, are Hadley’s tour de forceWritten in the spirit of free love, the novel ultimately embodies its own theme. And we are left with a provocative affair to remember.
The Irish Times
 
“Master storyteller and superior stylist
that she is, Hadley wryly records the unexpected crashes and calamities of Nicky and Phyllis’s relationship . . . The sustained intimacy of Hadley’s recent novels Late in the Day and The Past that have garnered her legions of admirers is in abundance here . . . achingly moving and real. . . . [Free Love] shows a writer with boundless compassion. Yet again, she offers insightful and sensitive understanding of the quiet compromises people make to survive in a deeply compromised world.” The Guardian (review)

Few contemporary novelists write about their characters’ inner worlds with the finely filigreed but plain-spoken acuity that Tessa Hadley brings to her work; the free-indirect style of her prose – reminiscent of Henry James, but with an uncluttered cleanness that feels decidedly modern – accessing roving, rich depths.” —The Telegraph (UK)

[Tessa Hadley’s] bold new book… The beauty of her prose is in its supple, non-attention-seeking articulacy. Free Love is brilliantly plotted and keeps its secret through two-thirds of its length so faithfully, I did not even begin to guess at the hugely satisfying slipknot ahead.” The Guardian (interview)

Tessa Hadley is the queen of the portentous evening, the pregnant light and the carefully composed life unwittingly waiting to be unravelled. Free Love, like its predecessor Late in the Day, begins on one such evening…. [A] gorgeously magnanimous novel, which reprises Hadley’s favoured themes of middle age, and how — and when, and if — to change one’s life.”
The Spectator

Hadley is our great novelist of bourgeois domesticity, minutely sensitive to its emotional perturbations and as devotedly attentive to its gorgeous solidity—its fabrics and glassware—as a Flemish painter of the 15th century.” —The Times

“Every description in [Free Love] is dynamic, infused with storytelling, so that all elements are working hard for their place on the page. [Tessa Hadley] is masterful at capturing the authentic detail that unlocks a character or transports us to another place and time.” —The Irish Times

Stylishly plotted…. Lauded for elevating the ‘domestic novel’ to literary fiction, her work often plots the shifting geometries of families…. Love, of course, is never free…. Hadley has crafted an aesthetic that inspires trust, and the author’s free indirect style—informed, perhaps, by her dissertation on Henry James—allows us access to the characters’ inner lives. She is also a superb portraitist, rendering people with the tiniest of details…. The deftly deployed minutiae are often class signifiers…. [A] sumptuous stylist, Hadley is a writer for whom language trumps all else. Any publication of hers, whether of short or long fiction, is cause for celebration for the pure pleasure of the prose.” —Financial Times

“No one is better than Tessa Hadley at capturing the secret longing that presides within her many wonderful characters.
Her latest, written in her usual crisp, absorbing prose, charts the sexual awakening of one woman in 1960s London.” —The Evening Standard

“Tessa Hadley is that rara avis: a literary writer whose prose is as beautiful and characters as lifelike as her plots are compulsive.
It’s almost impossible not to finish her books – which include The Past and Late in the Day – in a sitting, which is why you should find a clear day to settle down with her latest, Free Love…. Hadley vividly evokes the spirit of the age, the clash of tradition and modernity, and the lure of the era’s new values.” —Culture Whisper

“In keen, lush prose, Hadley conveys the many ways her characters delude themselves amid fraught relationships between parents and children as well as between lovers. The result is sumptuous and surprising.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Free Love artfully delves beneath the veneer of the British middle class to tell an intimate story of generational discord, political change and sexual freedom. These are big themes that could weigh down a novel, but they are deftly handled by the author. The queen of the domestic drama, Hadley doesn’t deal directly with events in the outside world, but rather provides meticulous portraits of those whose lives are gently nudged by external forces. Free Love is both a complex tale of personal awakening and a snapshot of a moment in time when the survivors of war were suddenly painted as relics by a new generation determined not to live under their dour and hesitant shadow.” —iNews (UK) 

Free Love is beautifully structured and brilliantly paced. It displays Tessa Hadley's extraordinary skill at making both surface life and deep interiors come fully alive. Phyllis Fischer's quest for love and escape is created with drama and excitement, but also with slow care and real delicacy and sympathy.” —Colm Tóibín

“A fascinating portrait of a world of politics, manners, morals and the decline of empire in a period of rapid societal change…. [S]tiletto-sharp humourHadley writes compellingly fascinating characters viewed from every angle, perfectly encapsulating an era of change.” The Scotsman

“[An] elegant writer . . . Hadley writes with great insight about love and passion.” —Good Housekeeping (U.K.)

Honest to god, I utterly LOVED this book!!!!! Tessa Hadley might be my new favourite writer. She just ‘gets’ people, their flaws, their ignoble impulses, the transcendent moments... She is wonderful.”Marian Keyes
 
I was utterly transported. Tessa Hadley is a true writer and this is such an enthralling novel, just so properly attentive to life.”Sunjeev Sahota

“So real and humane and utterly transporting; fresh and yet, with the feeling of a beloved classic.”Meg Mason

Tessa Hadley knows everything there is to know about the intricate, complex, contradictory workings of the human mind and heart. Her power to embed that understanding in unfailingly intelligent prose is unmatched in contemporary fiction.” —Neel Mukherjee

“Hadley’s style is as ‘sumptuous’ as ever, and her characterizations are superb.” —The Week (UK)

“Hadley’s eighth novel is as absorbing as any of her other fiction, with complex family secrets, brilliant insights into children on the cusp of puberty or adulthood, and lush descriptions of nature.” —The Arts Desk (UK)




Praise for Tessa Hadley:

“She has such great psychological insights into human beings, which is rare. She is one of the best fiction writers writing today.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Tessa Hadley recruits admirers with each book. She writes with authority, and with delicacy: she explores nuance, but speaks plainly; she is one of those writers a reader trusts.” —Hilary Mantel
 
"Unflinching, intelligent and fascinating." —Marian Keyes

I find Tessa Hadley’s work genuinely helpful, especially when it comes to the big subjects: love and marriage, the political versus the personal, children and friendship. And then there are the sentences themselves, so precise and beautiful, often sly, sometimes devastating, always expertly paced. Few writers give me such consistent pleasure.” —Zadie Smith Expand reviews
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