‘Matrilineal’ by Tessa Hadley

Matrilineal by Tessa Hadley, 2006

The magic trick:

Seamlessly connecting generations of mother-daughter relationships

Hadley deftly explores mother-daughter relationships in this story by seamlessly traversing generations. Nia is recalling the night her mother left her father. That memory ends with the mother, Helen, retreating to her own mom’s house for comfort, advice, and love. That scene moves easily back to Nia, now an adult, navigating her daughter-mother relationship with Helen. As always with Hadley, you get plenty of bits of truth and genius observation. I particularly like the way we see how Helen has reedited her autobiography to paper over any narrative twists she’d rather forget – as we all do.

It’s just a very good story. The generational segue is handled very well, and the way we see both pairs of mother-daughters comforting each other in bed tied it all together.

And that’s quite a trick on Hadley’s part.

The selection:

“I don’t love him anymore. I see right through him. All he cares about is his music. And, actually, I agree with him, why shouldn’t he?”

“You gave up your dancing.”

Helen looked at her in surprise. “I wasn’t very good. Not good enough. I wouldn’t want Phil to give up his music. That’s not the point.”

“I thought you were very good.”

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