Bad Dreams and Other Stories

Bad Dreams and Other Stories Book Cover Bad Dreams and Other Stories
Tessa Hadley
Penguin Random House
In Store Now!

I've never understood it when people say they take their time with good books, that they savour the pages to prolong the experience. When I like a book I immediately and completely immerse myself in it. It becomes a lifeline.

So, I found myself in an odd predicament this weekend, when I realized I only had one story left in Tessa Hadley's collection Bad Dreams. I felt really sad. I wondered if I should wait until bedtime.

It is fitting, then, that this book helped me understand the unfamiliar practice of others, because that is what Hadley does with these stories: she assists in breaking down the patterned decisions that constitute personalities. She introduces ordinary people, places you in their circumstance, and offers glimpses into a life that is not your own:

The book opens with “An Abduction,” following Jane Allsop as she navigates the perils of adolescence, where bodies are made strange by the hankering for first tastes. Hadley details how much, when attended to, can be communicated by a gesture.

In “Experience,” newly divorced Laura goes to stay in another woman’s home. As she engages with the domicile and its owner’s personal belongings, she fiddles with more than just objects. Quick decisions weigh heavy moral consequences.

These ten stories, each deceptively simple in their mundanity, offer a cover for those who share a curiosity about the intimate and everyday lives of other people.

In “Flight,” Claire visits her sister—who, refusing to talk to her, seeks refuge in a bedroom upstairs—and her sister’s adult children, who end up engaging in hilarious tactics to coax their mother out of the room. The dialogue pierces the unique bond of siblings— one of shared history and an acute awareness of the glaring imperfections of the people who raised you.

These ten stories, each deceptively simple in their mundanity, offer a cover for those who share a curiosity about the intimate and everyday lives of other people.

I won’t say more. If you’re not yet convinced, visit your local bookstore and read the title story. It is disturbing. Brilliant. And likely to help you understand just what I’m trying to convey.

Danielle McNally
Danielle reads mostly contemporary fiction, and creative (memoir, cultural criticism, feminist theory etc.) non-fiction. She reads across time and place and is loyal to those who've captured her heart (Ali Smith, Maggie Nelson, Janet Malcolm, among other brilliant minds). She should probably read more books by men, but she's not losing sleep over it.