The figurative language of Tessa Hadley…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of images from Tessa Hadley….

Tess Hadley is a British author, who writes novels, short stories and nonfiction. She has published eight novels, as well as three short-story collections for adults and (with her husband, Eric Hadley) two for children. Her novels are realistic, set in Britain between 1950 and the present day, often concentrating on family relationships.

Reviewers and juries praise her books for their prose style and psychological insight. The judges of the Windham–Campbell Prize, which Tessa Hadley won in 2016 for her books Clever Girl and The Past, said that her writing “brilliantly illuminates ordinary lives with extraordinary prose that is superbly controlled, psychologically acute, and subtly powerful.” The author Anne Enright has compared Hadley’s short stories to those of Alice Munro.  

I picked up Tessa Hadley’s 2022 book Free Love on the strength of how much I’d enjoyed her 2011 book, The London Train. Her latest title is a compelling look at London in the late 1960s and, of course features her skillful use of figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • Everything was ready, the pork terrine decorated with bay leaves and glazed in its aspic in the fridge, the charlotte russe inside its palisade of sponge biscuits on the counter, beef fragrant and spitting in the oven.
  • They were all more or less drunk by this time: apart from Colette, who judged them from the lonely eminence of her sobriety.
  • Nicky felt himself a pinprick in the scale of history.
  • Colette was gratified, swigging more of his whisky; her consciousness went swooping overhead like a hawk, looking down on herself talking intimately in this crowd…
  • In the spring and summer after work, these boys would pick up the younger girls on their scooters and go blasting off into the evening, leaving trails of filthy fumes behind on the air, the exhaust’s noise raw and flaunting, with a defiant braggadocio.
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