Living Writers Series Features Tessa Hadley

It is not every day that college students have the chance to be in the company of an acclaimed writer, let alone listen to her narrate the first chapter of her new, unreleased book. The Living Writers series afforded students, faculty and the public this opportunity on Thursday Novem­ber 18. Author Tessa Hadley visited campus and provided a captivating reading of “Honor,” the first chap­ter in her newest book The London Train, which is scheduled be released in January 2011.

Hadley, a British writer now liv­ing in Cardiff, has published several works including the novels Accidents in the Home in 2002, Everything Will Be All Right in 2003 and The Master Bedroom in 2007. In 2007, she also authored Sunstroke, a collection of ten short stories that students in the Liv­ing Writers course read in preparation for Hadley’s visit. Some of her stories have been published in The New York­er and Granta. In fact, her story “The Trojan Prince” was published in The New Yorker on November 15, just days before her visit to Colgate.

When she is not writing, Hadley spends her time teaching literature and creative writing courses at Bath Spa University in England.

In her writing, Hadley is well known for her highly realistic depic­tion of the characters and their expe­riences. She often focuses on the lives of women and the intricacies of inter­personal relationships. As a result, her readers are often drawn to her work because the characters and experiences are so relatable.

After reading the chapter “Hon­or,” Hadley explained her inspi­ration for writing her new book. While reading about Louis XVI’s execution, she developed a fasci­nation with his daughter and her attitude in her later life. She paid particular attention to a recorded scene in which somebody fell on his knees in front of the daughter and tried to kiss the hem of her skirt.

“That moment in history moved me enormously. I wouldn’t have any­thing in common with some crazed, ultra royalist, conservative French princess, but I was just admiring of the dignity of that stillness and how you would carry around with you an experience of that order outside the ordinary register,” Hadley said.

After studying the reaction of Louis XVI’s daughter, Hadley fo­cused the first chapter of her book on the “subject of being receptive and filling out your fate, but not needing to be a very special person.”

Others asked questions about Hadley’s favorite and most influ­ential contemporary British writ­ers and her thoughts on Elizabeth Bowen, an Irish writer who resided in England. Hadley seemed most interested in the works of Irish writers, including Colm Toibin and John McGahern, admitting that she loved Irish writing.

“Elizabeth Bowen is a really wonderful, great writer … She is brilliant in encapsulating the 1920s, 30s, 50s, and 60s. Her ac­cent is astonishing; it’s like cut glass in its upperclassness. Nobody talks like that—even the queen doesn’t talk like that,” Hadley said.

After her talk, Hadley offered to sign copies of her books. Hadley’s engaging reading from her newest work and conversation was an op­portunity for the Colgate commu­nity to learn more about her work and the mind of a writer.