Steve lovell's Reviews > Daughters-in-Law

Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope
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Mar 25, 11

Read in March, 2011

My daughter has just completed a house swap with her mother, and a city swap as well. Having my first visit with said author daughter since this event bought me face to face with a blast from the past - from another life. I was confronted with a bookcase full of novels by Andrea Newman, Margaret Drabble and Elizabeth Jane Howard - the aga-saga-ists of my early adult decades. For some reason I loved their books - not manly though when my mates were into the tough stuff of Ludlum and King. I didn't care - I anticipated a new title as eagerly as their female fans.
Joanna Trollope is their successor and this publication sees her in top form. Her last was a tad below par, but 'Daughters in Law' is as engrossing as any she's written. What Trollope excels at are the nuances of familial relationships. Here we have a matriarch refusing to let go of her three sons to their respective spouses, and the author cleverly stereotypes hubby who wishes she would, escapes to his 'shed' when it gets too hard but in the end takes a stand. Despite this there's no doubting the love. Each of the son's three marriages are deftly examined and narrated, but one wife for me stood out in particular as a lovely creation - the vague, almost ethereal Petra. This young wife seemed destined for an affair when unfeeling,silly Ralph relocates to London for a job. Will this bring family tensions to breaking point. Is it too much for mother to bear and will dad rise to the challenge - read it and you may be surprised! With Petra what one initially sees as flakiness goes much deeper! It is Trollope's strength that she can pull this character off.
The worlds that this best selling author creates are those that are possible for all of us in the middle strata of class and stages of life. There are no super-heroes, just reasonable intelligent people reacting as best they can to the mongrel punts (that's better than curve balls) that life throws at them. They are not perfect lovers, wives, daughters but in the main they are full of love for the near and dear. In Trollope's hands they mostly get it right in the end. Hopefully we all will!
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