All the qualities that readers praised in The London Train are present in Clever Girl, Tessa Hadley’s brilliant new novel. It follows the story of Stella, from her childhood as the daughter of a single mother in a Bristol bedsit in the 1960s into the mysterious shallows of her middle age. The story is full of drama – violent deaths, an abrupt end to Stella’s schooldays, two sons by different fathers who aren’t around to see the boys grow up – but as ever it is her observation of ordinary lives, of the way men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles. Yes, you think. This ishow it is.