T could have defeated her but she just ept going believing at some level that she truly was a clever girlI had such a great feeling at the end of this book it left me feeling optimistic Highly recommended Fiction doesn t get better than this This novel follows Stella from her childhood in England to her present day middle age It s an exploration of relationships and class as well as dramatic incidents tragic deaths failed affairs broken dreams So well written that I m sad it s over the highest test was not in what you chose but in how you lived what befell you Normally I do not care for books that are short on dialogue and full of descriptive language or third person narrative but I relished Clever Girl s exuisite language and found myself underlining passage after passage This novel is uiet but riveting Hadley s novel is a 5 star treat for readers who enjoy a brilliant character study Having not read any of Hadley s novels previously I was blown away by her style her deft use of language her precision her ability to use just a few sentences or even a handful of words to conjure up a vivid image in my mind I cannot list all the passages I underlined but will relate just this is one But today I couldn t hear a sound in the house I was the first to break the skin of the day stepping out on the lino which struck its frozen cold up through the warm soles of my feet When I parted the curtains and looked out the familiar scrappy back landscape trellis and dustbins and old bikes and crazy paving stepping stones was glazed in sunshine gleaming or possibly 45 According to Harold Bloom we read to be less lonely as we can never Dogs Behaving Badly: An A-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavorial Problems in Dogs know enough people Clever Girl is a book so unusually like getting tonow a real person that it fulfils this than most do It s written as a novelistic narrative not in a purely conversational style but its directness and the way the narrator reveals her life story most of it is there though with gaps feels inside so very much like listening like company like receiving email or letters rather than a book The use of dashes rather than uotation marks for dialogue also helps this effect It obviously belongs to the category literary fiction yet without making great effort to be different has hardly any of the particular cliches which make me cringe when faced with another obvious example of litfic It s a book that I can imagine some might find boring it s simple someone s life story in pretty much chronological order but I liked it instantly starting like an early 60s Gray Bishop kitchen sink drama Stella soon became someone I could imagine as an interesting older colleague or perhaps a friend of my aunt technically young enough to be my considerably older sister my mother s child and old enough that I could be her child view spoilerIt was still a surprise when she ended up as a late starter working in a field somewhat similar to my old work an occupational therapist is someone who I occasionally might have ended up talking to about clients in common hide spoile. Lows 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 ageClever 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 hereen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another that dazzles.
This book is not for those readers who are attracted to compelling action plots but it is for those who love a well developed character truthful insights and beautiful prose Although my life has been much conventional than Stella s I often remembered thinking similarly Puckster's First Hockey Sweater knowing I would have done that or said that as a child or teenager felt that as a mother of young children Isn t that an indication of great writingI loved this flawed character with all her foibles admirable ualities and yes cleverness I will soon be reading books by Tessa Hadley A uiet deceptively simple novel about one woman s journey through life family upheaval love academia and unplanned motherhood Brilliant despite or because of its reticenceIn that its self contained chapters at times seem to constitute a collection of linked stories it brings to mind Alice Munro s Lives of Girls and Women which also plots a young woman s course through discrete chapters But if there is one book this reminds me most of it is John Williams s Stoner the American campus novel originally published in 1965 that became last year s surprise bestseller Like William Stoner Stella is an ordinary person who takes delight in literature but remains disappointed by the course life has taken Both novels share a gentle air of regretI suspect this is theind of book that every person not just every woman should reread once a decade to recognize new parts of the view and gain better hindsight on what it has all meant so farSee my full review at The Bookbag Nothing is WastedDomestic Fiction Not something that I had recognized as a separate genre until the London Sunday Times reviewer mentioned it on the back cover of this highly satisfying novel The chronicle of ordinary lives But I realize that it is something that I greatly enjoy and a genre in which Tessa Hadley is an unassuming master Looking back at my review of her recent story collection Married Love I noted that for Hadley the true story lies less in events than the ellipses between them the way people move on with their lives flawed or ordinary though they might be While reading I was aware slightly apologetically that this was not an important novel with grand themes just small lives lived out of the limelight four star territory at I loved Clever Girl which tells the story of Stella a working class girl from Bristol from her years as a child of a single mother through when she is about 50 and a mother herself Her story told in episodes is a lovely uiet character study I did not want to say goodbye to her when the book ended This blurb about the book says a lot of why I liked it 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 Englishwoman named Stella Stella s story demonstrates that as a friend of mine likes to say life is curly not lived in a straight line She has many experiences tha. An ability to transform the mundane into the sublime that elevates domestic fiction to literary artWritten 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 fol.
Like one of those dreams where you now it s your house even though it looks nothing like your house How does it feel to have a baby who doesn t sleep Exactly like this To believe in the holiness of an inanimate thing as a child Like this To cook and clean and love and hate Like this Beyond its immersive ualities t Oh why didn t this win all the prizes I loved it Beautiful writing but it s the character of Stella that I enjoyed even fierce but self contained steady and powerful loving and enduring Some apparently find her cold but I didn t it was that she was dealt a certain hand in life and just had to get on with it It s about Stella s life from when she s about 13 I think to her early 50s Babies and work and tragedy and love and life really The tragedies shook me and tore at my heart like a good book should I think this might now be my favourite Hadley pipping The Past to the post by a pipsueak Look in the dictionary for the definition of clever and you ll find these words uick to understand or apply ideasastute intelligent sharpSo is Stella the protagonist of Tessa Hadley s novel truly a clever girl At one point Stella answers that uestion herself In the wrong contexts cleverness is just an inhibiting clumsiness Stella is the type of girl who outsmarts herself in a sense she is the everywoman of the often chaotic sixties and seventies We meet her when she is only 10 and then in shimmering vignettes follow her until she is in middle age as she struggles against the boring existence of her mother and stepfather flirts with feminism deals with premature motherhood gets involved in a couple of disastrous love affairs and tries on and discards various selves as she tries on and discards various iterations of life in her uest to find the authentic oneThere is an intimacy in Stella s recounting of her tales that made me think than once that I was reading a memoir A Bristol girl who makes some poor choices and who wrestles with failed affairs and missed chances does not in any sense add up to an extraordinary character She could just as easily be you or meAnd yet And yet There s something that s truly extraordinary in the episodic telling Tessa Hadley s een ability to capture an emotion an interaction or a juncture is so real that Stella could walk off the page We believe in Stella and we also believe in her evolution which sometimes comes in a crystal clear moment of enlightenment and other times in a hard won battle for clarity Through the episodes that Ms Hadley chooses to illuminate we begin to see Stella coalesce into an integrated wholeand to trust in her cleverness For readers who love character driven books without lots of bells and whistles this is a beautifully fulfilling read 45 stars Clever is defined as intelligent ingenious insightful It doesn t mean wise showing good judgement Stella the narrator is certainly clever but rarely wise Through snapshots of her life from childhood to middle age we read how she faces the challenges of each stage of life. 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 TrainLike Alice Munro and Colm Tóibin Tessa Hadley brilliantly captures the beauty innocence and irony of ordinary lives.
Tessa Hadley is the author of Sunstroke and Other Stories and the novels The Past Late in the Day and Clever Girl She lives in Cardiff Wales and teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University