by Tessa Hadley
from the September 18, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
Now that William Trevor is gone and Alice Munro is retired, Hadley is probably my favorite short story writer. Her work is wise and beautifully rendered.
Hadley focuses on the lives of girls and women, particularly of girls becoming women, and the title “Cecilia Awakened” suggests we’ll be getting more of this in this story. The first paragraph confirms this:
Cecilia awakened from her childhood while she was on holiday in Italy, the summer she turned fifteen. It was not a sexual awakening, or not exactly — rather, an intellectual or imaginative one. Until that summer, the odd child she was had seemed to fit in perfectly with the oddity of her rather elderly parents. Her father, Ken, worked at a university library, and her mother, Angela, wrote historical novels, and when they came late to marriage — and then to childbearing and child rearing — they saw no reason to change the entrenched pattern of their lives, or to become more like ordinary people. No one who knew them could quite imagine afterward how they had managed nappies and dummies and spooning in baby food; they themselves couldn’t really remember how they had managed it. A squalling baby must have been an eruption of anarchy in lives that were otherwise characterized by restraint and irony.
I’m really looking forward to this one! I hope you all enjoy it too. Please let us know in the comments below.