Married Love and Other Stories
“Married Love” is from Tessa Hadley’s collection, Married Love and Other Stories (Harper Collins). Hadley is the author of four highly praised novels, including Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and one previous collection of stories, Sunstroke. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and sons. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker, Granta and other magazines.
The New York Times said this of Hadley’s sixth work of fiction: Married Love is filled with exquisitely calibrated gradations and expressions of class, conducted with symphonic intensity and complexity.
Again and again in this understatedly beautiful collection, Hadley finds her characters pitching themselves at love in heroic attempts to find communion and transcendence within even the most stringent social striations and divisions. A teenager from a middling, liberal family marries her teacher…. A working-class woman has an affair with a famous singer-songwriter, who then goes on to seduce her 15-year-old daughter.
Hadley is a kind and generous writer who allows her characters, a majority of them women from the middle class down, many well-earned moments of delight and agency, but the stories as a whole tend to caution against putting too much stock in any romantic feeling between the genders. At best, heterosexual romance, especially of the interclass variety, is a brief afternoon and at worst it’s a lifelong calamity. This is a classic move in literary fiction, impeccably ironic. Happy endings tend to be found in the sort of garish stories women read on the subway.