The Past involves four siblings: Harriet, Alice, Fran, and Roland. They all get together for a summer holiday in Kington. It’s possibly their last holiday together in Kington because they are thinking about selling the house, which belonged to their grandparents. Along for the ride are Fran’s two children, Ivy and Arthur; Roland’s new wife Pilar and his daughter, Molly; and Alice’s ex-boyfriend’s son, Kasim.
One chapter can feature viewpoints from every single character, which I thought was cool. Sometimes it can get annoying to read a novel with just one point of view. It was a refreshing change of pace. One other thing that I found interesting about Hadley’s writing is that she didn’t use quotation marks for dialogue, but instead used a dash. I had never seen this style of writing before. It threw me off at first, but the further along I got in the book the more that I adjusted to it.
The characters talked a lot about the past so it was fitting that about halfway through the book the time period switches from the present to the past. During this part of the book, readers get viewpoints from the grandparents, the children’s mother, and Harriet and Roland when they were children. At this point in the book, Alice is a baby & Fran wasn’t born yet. Readers get to see what life was like for the family before everything changed.
The big moment that changed the siblings’ lives is when their mother dies of cancer. Then years later the grandfather dies and the grandmother soon after. We also get introduced to the siblings’ father, whom the mother left because he had an affair. After the mother dies, the father goes off with another woman and the children never see him again. This part of the story helps readers to understand why the siblings are the way that they are as adults. I noticed some characteristics of each sibling in their mother.
The story then switches from the past back to the present and wraps up all of the mini story lines in the novel. Without giving anything away, I will say that the past and the present connect at the end of the novel…sort of. The ending left me with more questions than answers, which was annoying.