The Master Bedroom A Novel

Tessa Hadley




Trade Paperback

352 Pages


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Tessa Hadley's intricate, graceful novel discovers the anxieties of adulthood, and the hazards of refusing to grow up. After more than twenty years in London, Kate Flynn has abandoned her career as an academic, rented her apartment in the city, and moved back to live with her mother in the grand old house beside a lake where she grew up. Bored and lonely, Kate meets a childhood friend, David Roberts, at the opera. David is married, but Kate finds herself falling for him against her better judgment.

At the same time, David's seventeen-year-old son is visiting Kate's house in secret, attracted by her eccentricity, her wit, and her shelves full of old books and music. Though she knows the risks, Kate cannot quite resist either man as both father and son set about their parallel courtships.


Praise for The Master Bedroom

"Tessa Hadley is a lovely, subtly teasing writer, studiedly evasive in her treatment of emotions and eerily precise in her sketches of everyday people in upper—middle—class British settings. Who her characters are, and what they want, is so deeply concealed (even from themselves) that they could be nude and lose none of their mystery . . . In The Master Bedroom, no relationship is as solid as it might seem, no course of action necessarily makes sense, and motivations are buried. Yet Hadley's favorite theme emerges clearly: the heart has no logic, the brain cannot always keep it in rein and nature controls human behavior—not the other way around. The novel is a chess game of slow-burn erotic maneuvers that produce tantalizingly unpredictable outcomes."—Liesel Schillinger, The New York Times

"Truly beautiful prose. Hadley's writing is outright gorgeous, without a misstep or false note . . . Both artful and realistic and most of all enjoyable."—Newsday

"Elegantly observed . . . Hadley's smart, often prickly characters remind us that love is never simple and happiness rarely wins without sorrow."—People (four stars) 

"Dissipated and dreary, much like her family's ancestral estate in the Welsh countryside, Kate Flynn's life has slumped dangerously out of control. After jettisoning her once-promising academic career and intoxicating London lifestyle to return to Cardiff to care for her senile mother, Kate despairs of her self-imposed exile until a chance encounter with the brother of a childhood friend promises a glimmer of hope. For his part, David, too, suffers from a pervasive malaise: his first wife committed suicide; his second marriage is disintegrating; and his teenage son, Jamie, is growing increasingly secretive and distant. Introduced to Kate as someone who could tell him about the mother he never knew, Jamie is immediately attracted to Kate's sophisticated ways and soon insinuates himself into her bohemian home, where he unwittingly joins his father as a rival for her affections. Melancholy and starkly emotive, Hadley's enervating tale evokes the raw drama that lies at the emotional nexus between friends and lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children."—Carol Haggas, Booklist

"Hadley handily casts her tough but compassionate gaze on the domestic chaos that can erupt from coping with declining parents, the rekindling of old flames, and the sorting—out of a deteriorating marriage."—The Seattle Times

"A perfectly wrought novel . . . [Hadley has] a gift for psychological acuity and an ability to encapsulate the human condition."—The Guardian (UK)

"This dreamy and thoughtful third novel from Hadley chronicles the slow—burning midlife crisis of Kate Flynn. A cigarette-smoking, high-heel—wearing Russian lit. prof, Kate has given up frittering among the London intelligentsia to move back to Wales and care for her aging mother, Billie. Against the backdrop of wintry Cardiff, Kate contends with her rekindled desire for David Roberts, now a married public health doctor. She simultaneously attempts to ward off the infatuated advances of David's teenage son, Jamie. As all concerned cavort provokingly, Hadley sympathizes with her quirky, stubborn characters and impulsive protagonist without excusing them, and the simmering love triangle between David, his son and Kate keeps the placid storytelling from falling into a meditative lull."Publisher's Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One It was not a sign. Kate refused to let it be a sign. She hated driving anyway. As soon as she got home she was going to sell the car, but of course she had needed it to move all her stuff from London. The backseat was piled with boxes of books and holdalls stuffed with that miscellany of her possessions which it had seemed impossible to leave behind, so high she couldn’t even see out of her rearview mirror. She always expected when she was driving to die at any moment, and braked and changed lanes with desperate recklessness as if she were gambling, but actually what
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  • Tessa Hadley

  • Tessa Hadley teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University. She is the author of Sunstroke and Other Stories, Everything Will Be All Right, and Accidents in the Home. Sunstroke and Other Stories, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007 and long-listed for The Guardian's First Book Award. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker. She lives in Cardiff, Wales.

  • Tessa Hadley Rob Clifford




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