“The Bunty Club”
by Tessa Hadley
from the October 28, 2019 issue of The New Yorker

Yes! I love Tessa Hadley’s work, so I’m thrilled to see another of her stories appear in The New Yorker. Like Jane Gardam and Alice Munro, she has helped me understand some of the complexities experienced by girls as they grow up. I hope some of this understanding has helped me be less judgmental and more empathetic. Of course, this is just one part of my admiration for her: her stories are always well written and interesting in their own right. She is also a joy to listen to, so if you have the opportunity I’d recommend you listen to her read “The Bunty Club.”

I say all of this without having read “The Bunty Club” yet, so I may come back here to say that she disappointed me this time. I don’t think that will be the case, but I’ll be sure to let you know. I certainly like the opening paragraph:

Serena was out in the garden in the early morning, before her two sisters got up. It was the best time. Reflected off the estuary water, the light seemed a blond powder, sifted through the summer air onto grass that grew waist-high, its mauve seed heads heavy with dew that soaked her skirt. She dipped to wash her arms in it, even her face—she was fanciful and ecstatic, and she loved long grass. Earth smells and the pungency of privet and balsam were still acute at this hour, unmingled; the shadows were as bold as in a child’s picture book; swifts and house martins tracked across the pale sky overhead, shrilling in thrilled anticipation. Everything was to come! This unknown day! The garden was so much more lovely now, Serena thought, than in the past, when it was scrupulously cared for. A crimson rambler rose, unmoored from its trellis, had flopped fatally forward into the grass, where it bloomed copiously but mostly unseen; flower beds were knotty with convolvulus and bramble; the dense hedge of blackthorn and holly had grown too thick and high for her to see over the top. She was alone, enclosed with everything enchanting, hidden.

Ah, that’s a compelling, mysterious opening.

So how did you feel about “The Bunty Club”? About Hadley’s work in general? Please comment below.

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