Everything Will Be All Right is a about the lives of three generations of English women over a period of over four decades. Joyce Stevenson is thirteen years old when her mother, sister and brother go to live with Joyce’s aunt after Joyce’s father is killed in WWII. Aunt Vera is a venerable schoolteacher at an upper class girls’ school, which is also attended by Joyce and Joyce’s sister, Ann, with Aunt Vera as one of their instructors. This unusual arrangement works out fine for the women, young and old, as Aunt Vera’s husband, Uncle Dick, is rarely home and is far from attentive to Vera. Lil, Joyce’s mother, stays home with Aunt Vera’s young children, and Aunt Vera brings home the pay.
Later on, Joyce, now a young woman, strikes out on her own and attends art school where she falls in love with her married art professor, Ray. Gone is the cozy existence in Joyce’s life where things were predictable and safe. Now Joyce is partnered with a somewhat volatile and quite intense painter who leaves his wife and marries Joyce. However, Joyce is an adaptable woman and she takes on the role of wife, and eventually as mother when she gives birth to Zoe.
Fast-forward several years, and Zoe is no longer a baby. She is now a young woman attending Cambridge, where she meets Simon, a brooding and emotionally caustic (at times) writer who has disdain for the conventional aspects of life. Zoe winds up pregnant against Simon’s strident wishes, radically changing the relationship between Zoe and Simon with Pearl, their baby daughter, to raise and love for life.
This is the first book that I have read by Hadley and an incredibly satisfying read that explores the history of the women and how their lives, dreams, and hopes change over time. The story does meander a bit as Hadley jumps back and forth in time, but it is not an unpleasant ride - each woman is equally interesting and I could easily follow the flow of the book. Hadley has a talent for capturing the domestic (and at times not-so-domestic) daily existence of imperfect, likeable characters. I highly recommend Everything Will Be All Right, more of a cerebral family saga rather than the recycled, formula-driven plots seen far too often in the “women’s lit” genre. Fans of literary fiction and contemporary fiction will enjoy this book.