From Tessa Hadley, bestselling author of Late in the Day and The Past, comes 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 a compulsive, irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our lives.
'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
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Average rating from 10 members
Tessa Hadley is a wonderful novelist and this, in my opinion, is her best work so far. Phylis is a middle aged (40) housewife stuck in dreary 1960’s suburbia. Married with two children she unexpectedly meets and falls for a friend’s son. Like a slow motion collapse of a large building we watch how this infatuation affects all generations. The writing is beautiful. The settings pitch perfect. The details are spine tingling. In an autumn of really wonderful books, this one occupies a top spot. Couldn’t recommend more highly.
The title recalls the heady days of the Summer of Free Love, Woodstock, the Swinging Sixties, anti-war demonstrations - and the whole sex ,drugs and rock & roll era - when it was said that if you remembered it, you weren’t really there. Hadley has brilliantly portrayed the atmosphere of that time, although her protagonist is not the expected teenage rebel against authority, but a middle-aged woman trying to regain her lost youth with an unsuitable liaison. It is a modern take on the Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary tragedies, which we know will end in tears, but Hadley has sensibly avoided the easy moralising aspect to keep the reader’s empathy with her flawed characters. Highly enjoyable!