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3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
The Master Bedroom
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on 27 September 2016
I've given it four stars for the wonderful prose style. Any writer who employs words like 'farouche' (twice) and 'splashily' always gets my vote :) The intro/set-up was very promising indeed and had me hooked. Unfortunately, the further the plot (such as it was) progressed, the weaker it got--there was a fairly dramatic outcome for Kate the main character --the fall out from which we never got to see. I also felt the relationship she had with her cat seemed more real than the weirdly complicated one she had with her mother. The sub-plot with David (the brother of an old friend) and his marriage troubles also seemed to fade into 'nothing to see here, really'. So that was a big let down. There was a whole rack of Posy Simmonds-type characters employed as a kind of chorus/back up, including a cello player pal of Kate's who was described in a very engaging, witty way but given no name for some reason. Some passages seemed to be filled out with a distracting picturesque symbolism divorced from actuality--especially the scene where Kate falls into bed with a newly acquired lover and she happens to brush her hand against the antique bed head in the dark--identifying the contours of the elaborately carved cornucopia---as you do while having impromptu sex with someone entirely unexpected :P. Wondered in the end if it was a short story eked out to novella length. Still, I found it a decent read and it made me curious about some of Tessa Hadley's other offerings.
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on 2 August 2017
Tessa Hadley always tells a good story but it is enhanced by a beautiful writing style.
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on 18 May 2015
Kate Flynn, an arts academic – lively, but snobbish, pretentious and impractical – and David Roberts, a health administrator – reserved, but methodical and reliable - discover a mutual attraction despite their differences. Meanwhile David’s wife, Suzie is going through an extreme mid-life crisis, and his 17-year-old son Jamie, is drawn to Kate because she tells him about his mum, David’s first wife, who committed suicide and is now never spoken of within their own family. Meanwhile again, Kate’s elderly mum, whom she’s looking after, is going increasingly senile.

The book’s basically a Hampstead novel decamped to Wales, with the pleasures and annoyances of that genre. Its style (speech done with continental-style with dashes; lots of semicolons; characters who ‘sprawl like a Watteau fete champetre on the grass’) allies itself with Kate’s own artiness – at no little risk, since Kate is so unbearable. But it says something for the skill of the telling that I still cared what happened to her, as well as to the humorously put-upon and out-of-his-depth David.
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on 16 April 2016
Having just finished "The Past", I had high hopes for this novel, but was sadly disappointed. The main protagonist, Kate, is extremely irritating and not in the least likeable. As far as I'm concerned, she got her just desserts.
Many of the themes in "The Past" were visited in this novel too - the "arty" family, the crumbling, faded splendour of the grandparents'house, the implicit sneering at the less cultured members of society. I wasn't impressed. Tessa Hadley's writing style is admirable and this is largely what drove me on to finish the book. However, I had to grit my teeth in order to do so, given that I found aspects of the novel somewhat pretentious.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 March 2012
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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on 22 April 2014
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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on 16 February 2016
I found this book more down to earth in both style and content compared to Hadley’s previous novels, although the actual characters and setting – middle class, arty, central focus around large parental home, affluence, teenage strife, middle age frustration were very similar to her latest The Past.

I find the author’s characters have a very obvious specific trait – in this case David is dull, Suzie is frustrated, Carol is helpful, Kate is flighty, Billie has dementia and Jamie fancies older ladies.

There’s little complexity, soul searching or moral dilemma which I like in a character novel, it just seems a novel of average ideas and dynamics albeit quite well written. 2.5 stars

For a more rewarding read of contemporary character-driven novels I’d suggest Morag Joss (across the bridge, half broken things) or Evie Wyld.
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on 17 August 2015
I picked this up and took it on holiday with me. I knew nothing about it but the cover seemed to imply it was a light read and had multiple positive comments from major newspapers.

What a load of rubbish. For one, what is the problem with quotation marks? Speech was preceded by "-". Why? It also made internal thoughts occasionally difficult to decipher from speech. Why? To be pretentious I suspect.

But then I get onto the subject matter and for this, I apologise but read no further if you still intend to read this book.

Kate is a 40 something self absorbed eejit in her ivory tower with her sweet but old mother. Somehow everyone is attracted to her selfish ways and individual dress sense. I found nothing attractive about her. She then kicks off a relationship of sorts (i.e. sex but nothing else) with a 17 year old boy. Joyous! This is a book which the Observer apparently described as "A sharp and sexy read". Think about this for a minute. However much the boy pursued her, it was still the case that if you read it in reverse, i.e. a 40 something man and a 17 year old girl you would think it was a bit wrong.

Ultimately very little happens in the book either. Some weird stuff about a swan, a dead ex wife. Meh. If I'd not been on holiday, I wouldn't have had the concentration to finish it. Frankly I was glad to do so and left it in the recycle pile. Trash.
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on 25 October 2015
A compulsive read. Full of thought provoking ideas. An excellent writer who is now getting the praises she decided.
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on 22 August 2015
Having enjoyed talks by Tessa Hadley at several literary events, I realised that I had not read this book. I found it an absorbing read, a story that kept me reading over a long weekend and distracting me. A sign of a good book.

I liked the flawed nature of the characters, perfect people do not make for a good read and I liked the way Hadley never asks her characters to apologise. Likewise it's hard to work out if they actually learn from their actions.

I do agree that the style of speech, always a feature of Hadley's books can disrupt the reading experience.
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