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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars. Perceptively Observed, Beautifully Written
Kate Flynn, forty-three years old, decides to leave her university career as a lecturer in Slavic studies, to return home on a year's sabbatical to care for her mother, Billie, who is in the first stages of senile dementia. Home is a large, crumbling old house in Wales called Firenze, where Billie was born and has spent her life and where Kate was also born in the huge,...
Published on 27 Mar. 2012 by Susie B

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1.0 out of 5 stars Could not get into this
I really wanted to like this book, because it was well-written and evoked the atmosphere of the old house very well. I just couldn't care at all about any of the characters, especially Kate. Someone else said she was complex - I didn't think she was complex at all, just boring in the way that only utterly selfish people can be. Maybe that was the author's point, but it...
Published 12 months ago by CC

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars. Perceptively Observed, Beautifully Written, 27 Mar. 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
Kate Flynn, forty-three years old, decides to leave her university career as a lecturer in Slavic studies, to return home on a year's sabbatical to care for her mother, Billie, who is in the first stages of senile dementia. Home is a large, crumbling old house in Wales called Firenze, where Billie was born and has spent her life and where Kate was also born in the huge, old-fashioned master bedroom.

Shortly after settling back home (after a moment's panic where she asks herself what was she thinking of to give up her job and her London flat), Kate meets up with David, the brother of her old friend, Carol. Before she knows it, Kate finds herself becoming very attracted to David, who is going through an unsettled period with Suzie, his second wife. Suzie heartily dislikes the classical music that David loves - a passion that is shared by Kate - and soon David and Kate are spending time together attending concerts and sharing their love of music. However, although Kate's feelings for David continue to grow, she begins to realize that he doesn't feel quite the same way and, when David's seventeen-year-old son, Jamie, shows that he wants Kate sexually, she acquiesces, and then finds herself in a difficult situation that has painful and far-reaching consequences for all involved.

I really enjoyed this novel (which, although quite different, in some ways reminded me of Mary Wesley's Second Fiddle) and though it must be said that Kate is not an entirely admirable character, she is an interesting and complex one, and Hadley describes her situation so deftly and perceptively that I found myself empathizing with her despite my initial misgivings. Tessa Hadley is a wonderful writer with a real talent for describing the human condition; her prose style is excellent and her descriptive writing is richly imaginative, making this yet another of her books that I will re-read and can certainly recommend.

4.5 Stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Redescribing What Everybody Already Knows, 14 Feb. 2011
By 
Roderick Blyth (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
One of the characters in this novel divides her English graduates into `Tolstoy' and `Dostoyevsky' types. It is reasonably clear that the first type is to be preferred to the second - provocatively dismissed as `two-a-penny' - a sardonic comment on the relationship between literature and life not untypical of this author. But in terms of atmosphere, theme and tone, it is neither Tolstoy nor Dostoyevsky whose influence pervades this sad and subtle evocation of provincial life: it is the influence of Anton Chekhov, a writer less interested in type, perhaps, than in situation.

Kate Flynn, a clever and articulate university lecturer, having made a mess of life in London, returns to her home city and makes a mess of life there. On the car journey down, she is involved in an unusual accident, which throws her into deliberately unaffirmed contact with Suzie, the second wife of David Roberts, younger brother of one of Kate's old friends. The accident, though quite within the parameters of the normal, is endowed by Suzie with uncanny significance and acts as the catalyst for a period instability in her marriage to David. Whilst Suzie experiments with the alternatives, the dutiful but now isolated David finds himself intellectually, if not physically, attracted to Kate, who does not permit him to perceive that she has herself become obsessed with him. Meanwhile David's adolescent son by his first wife, initially intrigued by the arrival of a woman who knew his mother before the latter committed suicide, soon develops an obsession of his own. A series of events that seem sometimes determined, sometimes fortuitous; sometimes deliberate, and sometimes utterly unconsidered twist the relationships of these four characters in more or less predictable directions. A second, apparently illusory, car `accident', just after the climax in the narrative, seems to to reverse the polarities created by the first, and there follows the dissipation of the tensions built up, the revocation of the possibilities explored, and the dissolution of the small circle in which they have occurred. What could be more like Chekhov, except the curiously English - or should I say, Welsh - middle-class context in which it all occurs? The provincial setting; the ambiguous influences of the past; the inconsequential immediacy of the present; and the apparent emptiness of an unforeseeable future - the very title and significance of the 'Master Bedroom' as an ambiguous, and certainly ironic, symbol of uncertain origins, uneasy assertion, paradoxical continuity and overdue change - all these elements will strike chords in the hearts of those susceptible to the lyrical melancholy of Anton Chekhov.

I have to admit, nevertheless, that my first reading of this book was accompanied, for several tens of pages, with feelings of impatience and disgust. This seemed a simple story of small-town sexual transgression between somewhat uninteresting, and even unpleasant, persons. I was distracted and irritated, too, by an affectation of punctuation which dispenses with inverted commas to indicate the opening and closure of direct speech and employs instead the indented hyphen more characteristic of a film script. But I got over it. There is a a great deal to this book, but it is expressed with deceptive simplicity, and much of it is easy to miss. The reader is given privileged access to the thoughts and emotions of two intelligent and reflective persons who naturally engage the sympathies, and who at first seem central to the action: it is only afterwards that the reader appreciates that the secondary characters, to whom there is no direct access, are just as interesting and deserving of sympathy, and may even be said to `make the weather'.

The book is remarkably good at demonstrating how interesting ordinary people can be, and how what we make of them, in literature as in life, usually depends on our own prejudices, unpredictably modified by what we what we are told; what we imagine; and what we actually discover about them for ourselves: sometimes it is hard to see why we should be so in sympathy with them at one moment, and so out of sympathy at the next. Strange too, but completely convincing, is the repeated demonstration of how characters who plume themselves on their rationalism can so easily dipense with it: a decisive choice can be motivated by a dream, a memory, a mood, or a more or less unguarded impulse. Judgment is suspended in the case of irrational behaviour simply because it 'feels' right at the time. Meanwhile, apparently irrational people are shown to act with a surprising degree of pragmatism and common sense. Human beings, it would seem, cannot bear very much reality unless, of course, they are still young and have yet to learn what reality is.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Could not get into this, 22 April 2014
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
I really wanted to like this book, because it was well-written and evoked the atmosphere of the old house very well. I just couldn't care at all about any of the characters, especially Kate. Someone else said she was complex - I didn't think she was complex at all, just boring in the way that only utterly selfish people can be. Maybe that was the author's point, but it doesn't make for a very attractive read. Some other reviewer said something about provincial life, I don't know what that was about, Cardiff is a metropolis after all, maybe viewed from London it's the provinces, gosh, English people are so annoying at times.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and believable, 4 Mar. 2009
By 
Ms. R. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
I loved this novel. The characters were very vividly drawn and believable . Even the minor characters came to life. I thought the depiction of the relationships between the characters: mother/daughter; a troubled marriage; old friends; between young and old were all fascinating and to me, completely plausible. Loved her writing style too - I'll definitely look for more by Tessa Hadley.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inappropriate Passions, 10 July 2011
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
A novel on the theme most famously explored in the opera 'Der Rosenkavalier' and the 'Cheri' novels of Colette - a very young man's affair with a much older woman. This is a very dark take on the theme, and one that renounces the 'Rosenkavalier' happy ending for something much more complicated. Kate, a semi-anorexic, brilliant, ironic and troubled lecturer in Eastern European literature, leaves her London life to return to the family home in Cardiff and care for her mother, who is in the early stages of dementia. In Cardiff, Kate begins to fall for David, the brother of her best friend from school. (David is fairly unhappily married, and shares Kate's passion for music.) But what Kate is not expecting is for David's eighteen-year-old son Jamie (by an earlier marriage - the boy's mother committed suicide) to fall for her. Believing that David will never either leave his wife or have an affair, Kate decides on a short-term fling with Jamie. Unfortunately, this relationship, entered into in a spirit of hedonism by Kate, will have profound consequences for everyone.

This is an arresting, if at times, painful, read. I loved Hadley's descriptions of Cardiff and the surrounding countryside (there's a great scene where David, Jamie and David's father go on a biking holiday together) and of Kate's house, and her Jewish ancestry. There were some wonderfully alive characters too: I particularly enjoyed David, whose passion for opera consoles him for a life that he finds in many senses frustrating, Carol, his wise sister, Jamie, uncertain what to do with his life and even Kate - it's a mark of how good a writer Hadley is that she manages to show all Kate's unpleasant sides and still make you sympathise with her and at times even like her. My only hesitations (I'd give this novel 4.5 stars if I could) are about Kate's mother, who never quite came to life as a character (although Hadley writes well of her passion for music, she seemed to have rather less personality than most of the other characters) and the end of the book, which seemed rather rushed - I was not entirely convinced by David's decisions in the final chapters, and would have liked to find out more about what happened to Kate and what Jamie decided to do with his life. Room for a sequel, maybe? Still, a wonderful and courageous tackling of a difficult subject and complex characters.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull, slow and predictable, 2 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
The (lack of) punctuation in speech was irritating, but I thought I shouldn't give up straight away on perhaps a minor point. But the characters were dull, flat and uninteresting. I had no empathy with any of them. The plot was predictable, especially the ending. The writing was also heavily laden with adjectives - which just became all too much. Don't know how it got long-listed.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dull, 3 Nov. 2008
By 
A. Munro "a. reader" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed Tessa Hadley's "sunstroke" short stories but found this novel very dull, I couldn't muster any interest at all in the characters and at the end was left with the impression that nothing very much had happened. Perhaps I missed something.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Was that it?, 30 Sept. 2010
By 
This review is from: The Master Bedroom (Paperback)
I listened to (well struggled through) the audiobook and at the end, was looking for part 2. Rubbish
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The Master Bedroom
The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley (Paperback - 4 Sept. 2008)
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