Book of the Month – January 2022

Free Love by Tessa Hadley

From Tessa Hadley, bestselling author of Late in the Day and The Past, comes a compulsive new novel about one woman's sexual and intellectual awakening in 1960s London.

1967. While London comes alive with the new youth revolution, the suburban Fischer family seems to belong to an older world of conventional stability: pretty, dutiful homemaker Phyllis is married to Roger, a devoted father with a career in the Foreign Office. Their children are Colette, a bookish teenager, and Hugh, the golden boy.

But when the twenty-something son of an old friend pays the Fischers a visit one hot summer evening, and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden after dinner, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, Phyllis makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother. Nothing in these ordinary lives is so ordinary after all, it turns out, as the family's upheaval mirrors the dramatic transformation of the society around them.

With scalpel-sharp insight, Tessa Hadley explores her characters' inner worlds, laying bare their fears and longings. Daring and sensual, Free Love is a compulsive, irresistible exploration of romantic love, sexual freedom and living out the truest and most meaningful version of our lives.

"Tessa Hadley recruits admirers with each book. She writes with authority, and with delicacy: she explores nuance, but speaks plainly; she is one of those writers a reader trusts" - Hilary Mantel.

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Buy the book

Further reading

"I feel I’ve got the novel’s rhythm now, and that’s exciting"

Tessa Hadley on longing amid lockdown

Free Love Q&A with Tessa

About the author

Tessa Hadley is the author of seven highly praised novels, Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, Everything Will Be All Right, The Master Bedroom, The London Train, Clever Girl, The Past, Late in the Day and three collections of stories, Sunstroke, Married Love and Bad Dreams. She won a Windham-Campbell prize for Fiction in 2016, The Past won the Hawthornden Prize for 2016, and Bad Dreams won the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a new book we love and think holds particular resonance. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry year-round.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.

Happy reading!