The Boy Next Door

From The New York Times:

Cover395 What if it had been Mrs. Robinson who was the pursued, and Benjamin the pursuer? What if, when the young man came knocking, the grown woman hid, locked her bedroom door and “stayed motionless on her bed, not answering, hugging her knees tightly”? What if, when he refused to believe she couldn’t love him, she didn’t run to him, but from him? In Tessa Hadley’s third novel, “The Master Bedroom,” that’s the predicament faced by Kate Flynn, a brainy and forbidding beauty with delicate bones, “Nefertiti eyes” and a mean tongue, who has quit her professor’s job in London and returned to her grand but crumbling childhood home in Wales to care for her 83-year-old, increasingly forgetful mother.

Kate doesn’t like it when a local boy, the son of a friend, starts hanging around the house, scything the grass, playing the piano, yearning for her touch. But it’s not as if there’s anyone else in the picture, exactly. And what if, for all her 43 years and Jamie’s 17, it’s Kate who’s the child, living in her detached intellectual fantasy world, and Jamie who’s the grown-up, precociously reconciled to the fact that denying life’s complicating passions doesn’t make them go away? “Personal stuff” is “smoke,” Kate tells Jamie, trying to sound distancingly in control. “It’s the rest that’s smoke,” he replies, and adds, “I know you better than you think I do.” In some ways, he knows her better than she knows herself. But to a woman addicted to self-delusion, that’s no victory.

More here.