Featured Reading Guide
An improbable coincidence brings Clare back into contact with someone she once had sex with at a teenage party; complicatedly, he is now going out with her best friend, Helly. The encounter needn’t have meant anything – it could just have been funny, or embarrassing – but it seems to have the power to shake up everything in Clare’s life. Clare is married with three small children, she bakes her own bread and buys her clothes from the charity shop. Helly is an actress and has her golden curves pasted up on billboards ten foot high. And each of them seems to want what the other has. Clare’s story…
About the Book
An improbable coincidence brings Clare back into contact with someone she once had sex with at a teenage party; complicatedly, he is now going out with her best friend, Helly. The encounter needn’t have meant anything – it could just have been funny, or embarrassing – but it seems to have the power to shake up everything in Clare’s life. Clare is married with three small children, she bakes her own bread and buys her clothes from the charity shop. Helly is an actress and has her golden curves pasted up on billboards ten foot high. And each of them seems to want what the other has. Clare’s story is intertwined with other stories of her extended family. Her father has been married three times and left a trail of children. Accidents in the Home dips in and out of the lives of this complicated, close, fraught family, reaching out into the past for explanation and illumination as well as across the present. It is the debut of a quite formidable fictional talent.top
Tessa Hadley interview/review
Western Mail by Catherine Jones
Tessa Hadley has herself experienced the London-versus-the-provinces type angst. “When the kids were younger and I was in my early 30s I felt quite envious of their lives. I felt constrained by having young children while my stepsons were full of the excitement of the capital. I don’t think I feel that now. Most of the people I know there are trying to get out of London.”
The premise for Accidents in the Home, which concerns a character who realises she had slept with her best friend’s boyfriend years before, came about after a conversation with a friend. “My memory is that it began with something that sounds quite trivial.
A girlfriend of mine was saying, Would you necessarily remember someone you slept with at a rash teenage party? Does it mean something or nothing? So that’s how it started, but I think what worked was the moment that family life evolved around the character of Clare. There was a sense that I didn’t have to follow her. There is lots of making up in the novel. There really isn’t much borrowed from life. But they are my kind of people – a family I could have been in if I hadn’t been in my own.”
She wrote Accidents in the Home in her bedroom on a 12-year-old Mac computer. “I have been writing for longer than I have been teaching. It’s taken me a long time to get it right. I looked forward to going there, although there’s always a sense of some sort of threshold to be crossed. It’s the strangest mixture of intense relaxation – you have to lose and undo everything before you can start – but also intense concentration. But of course I love doing it. Nothing can be better than when it is right.”top
Starting Points for Discussion
- Clare is a young mother with a devoted husband and a comfortable home in the suburbs. Helly is single and leads a glamorous, metropolitan lifestyle. Both want what the other has. Do you think their desire for more will ever be satisfied?
- Family in Tessa Hadley’s novel is no longer a steady foundation but a complex web of divorces, half siblings and step children that expands connection and betrayal. How do you feel about this intimate portrait of contemporary family life? How does it compare to pre 1960 domestic novels? And your own experiences?
- Each of the chapters are almost a short story in themselves. Each character is in full focus for only a matter of pages before receding into the background again. How do you feel about how the novel has been constructed? How does Hadley enhance our awareness of the context and make the novel work as a whole?
- There is only one conventionally disastrous ‘accident’ in the book; why do you think the author chose the title she did? Discuss the power of chance and collision throughout the novel.
- The novel has a domestic setting – do you think Tessa Hadley has succeeded in making ‘serious literature’ out of it?
- Clare’s father leaves a trail of marital dissatisfaction, divorce and children. How do you feel about the way men are portrayed in the novel?
Other Books by Tessa Hadley
Everything Will Be All Right…
England, just after the Second World War. Two sisters are bringing up their …
Sunstroke and Other Stories…
Everyday life crackles with the electricity sparking between men and women, …
The Master Bedroom
Kate Flynn has always been a clever girl, brought up to believe in herself as…
Suggested Further Reading
- AFTER YOU’D GONE ~ Maggie O’Farrell
- THREE JUNES ~ Julia Glass
- UNLESS ~ Carol Shields
- A LIFE’S WORK ~ Rachel Cusk
- HEY YEAH RIGHT GET A LIFE ~ Helen Simpson