‘Coda’ by Tessa Hadley

Coda by Tessa Hadley, 2021

The magic trick:

Handling COVID without being exhausting about it

Tessa Hadley is such a gifted writer she can make a COVID story feel timeless.

In “Coda” she takes several themes, ideas, and situations and gives them to the reader. But she doesn’t make that next step to dictate how the reader should feel about each or even which is more important than the other.

So, yes, COVID lockdown plays a key role in the story, but it’s more of a piece of the overall puzzle rather than a distracting focal point.

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

The selection:

Don’t get me wrong. First of all, my mother wasn’t really suffering; she was getting along pretty well for ninety-two. She had magical powers, I sometimes thought, of resilience and brightness. And I was glad to be with her during that time when we were all locked down, month after month, because of the coronavirus. I couldn’t have been happy living away from her, worrying about how she was managing by herself, knowing that she must be lonely. She had friends who would shop for her, plus a cleaner and someone to keep the garden tidy—and these people were her friends, too, although she paid them. But she was naturally sociable, and longed for company—any company, even mine. We had both lost our men, hers to death, three years earlier—her third husband, Dickie, not my father, who was her first and had died long before—and mine to divorce, at about the same time. We grieved for them, but it was restful without them, without the performance and the competition that they inspired. My mother was old-fashioned in that way, a man’s woman. She used to flirt even with my husband. I’ll have to call her Margot. I can’t just go on calling her my mother, as if that were all she was.


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