“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
From the 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 an irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our selves – a novel that showcases Hadley’s unrivaled ability to “put on paper a consciousness so visceral, so fully realized, it heightens and expands your own” (Lily King, author of Euphoria).
The poignant, ironic latest from Hadley (Late in the Day) is drenched in the atmosphere of late-1960s Britain, when the lives of women seemed to be changing radically, but maybe, in fact, weren't so much. In 1967, Phyllis Fischer is 40 years old, "pleased with her life" as a housewife in suburban London, married to civil servant Roger, and mother to charming nine-year-old Hugh and discontented 15-year-old Colette. But, as the detached, observant narrator notes, "under the placid surface of suburbia, something was unhinged." Soon Phyllis is involved, to Colette's chagrin, in an affair with Nicholas, the 20-something son of family friends. What seems at first to be a simple tale of adultery and its consequences twists into something between a "cosmic comedy" (as Nicholas's mother calls it) and a "situation as fatally twisted as a Greek drama" (according to the narrator) as the affair reveals unexpected connections between Phyllis's family and Nicholas's. The narrator's wise, disaffected view of life homes in on the shakiness of Phyllis's sentimental education. 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.