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Next Of Kin [Paperback]

Joanna Trollope
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 5 1997
Two generations of Merediths farm the land running down to the River Dean.  Robin Meredith bought his dairy farm just before he married Caro, his enigmatic Californian wife, while his father Harry is an arable farmer on the adjoining farm, working the land, with the help of his other son Joe, just as his father and grandfather had before him.  But now Caro had died, as much of a mystery to the Meredith family as she was when she arrived twenty years ago, leaving Robin and the rest of the family to cope with the loss.

With Caro gone, her adopted daughter Judy feels cut adrift, while for Joe the despair at her death is far deeper than the family suspects.  And into the midst of this unhappy family comes Zoe, Judy's London friend, an outsider with her strange townie appearance, independent spirit and disturbing directness.  Everyone underestimates Zoe's power as a catalyst for change as the realities behind the seeming idyll of a rural community become ever clearer.

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From Amazon

Fans of Joanna Trollope's cozy, plot-driven novels like Marrying the Mistress and Other People's Children might find Next of Kin slightly forbidding. Set on a farm in the English Midlands, the book opens with a funeral. The deceased, Caro Meredith, is (or rather, was) a Californian, a lost soul who ended up on Tideswell Farm by chance, having married into the taciturn, proud Meredith clan. Her funeral finds her husband, Robin, depressed; her twentysomething daughter, Judy, furious at the world in general and at her father in particular; and her brother-in-law, Joe, hopelessly bereft. Meanwhile, Robin's father, Harry, looks on, thinking of his late daughter-in-law: "Strange woman. American. Never quite seemed able to involve herself with the farm and yet--Harry swallowed. He felt it might be an obscure and diverting comfort to mention to Robin that his new power harrow would cost over six thousand pounds, but thought he'd better not."

This gives some idea of the preoccupations and sensitivities of the Meredith mind. The farm comes first; everything else comes a distant second. Next of Kin traces how that rigid mindset is changed by a wholly unexpected agent: Judy's London roommate, Zoe. This disturbingly forthright character arrives for a weekend at Tideswell Farm bedecked in her signature purple hair, rows of silver earrings, and all-black boy's wardrobe. She declares that she likes farm life, and to Judy's horror, soon moves down from London to Tideswell, ultimately ending up in the paterfamilias's bed. As the Merediths find their old ways failing them, Zoe teaches the family how to live with her own odd mixture of honesty and lawlessness. Trollope's books usually move with a nice combination of introspection and action. Next of Kin, on the other hand, holds still--Zoe has to all but goad the Meredith family into the happy ending she has in mind. This stillness makes for a quietly and surprisingly satisfying read. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Among bestselling British author Trollope's enviable skills are her ability to create characters with believable flaws, and to ponder plausible life situations in which the best possible outcome is merely pragmatic, rather than romantic, and tinged with rue as well as guarded hope. In her ninth novel (after Marrying the Mistress), the theme is the inevitability of change and the possibility of growth. The Meredith family, for generations farmers in the rural English midlands, are now beset by financial problems in a changing economy. The book opens with the funeral of Caro Meredith, a transplanted American who never adjusted to being a farm wife. Her husband, taciturn Robin, is less bereaved than relieved, since Caro stopped loving him long ago, but their adopted daughter, Judy, has always taken her mother's part and bitterly resents both her father and his dairy farm. Robin's parents live nearby, raising crops on their own acreage, and so does Robin's troubled brother, Joe, and his needy wife, Lindsay. Trollope does an excellent job of describing the dynamics of farm life, both the unremitting labor and the encroachment of modern techniques. As usual, she conveys the nuances of marriage, in which lack of communication can breed tragedy. After another family death and Robin's unexpected attraction to Judy's flaky London flatmate, Zoe, the novel becomes a crucible of change, realistically describing how brave people pull themselves together and move on. In addition to crafting an absorbing narrative, Trollope charms with her depiction of several young children, whose speech and behavior are captured with clarity and endearing fidelity. (July) Forecast: Trollope's devoted readers are rarely disappointed, and this new novel will add to her reputation for writing psychologically nuanced fiction that's commercially viable.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
At his wife's funeral, Robin Meredith was asked by a woman in a paisley headscarf, whom he didn't immediately recognize, if he wasn't thankful to know that Caro was now safe with Jesus. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, thoughtful, gracefully written July 10 2001
Format:Hardcover
Trollope's novels often depict a family in crisis; the reverberations of upheaval through the comfortable routines of familial life, and the individual responses to trouble and change. She sometimes likes to throw an outsider into the mix: the self-possessed young mistress in "Marrying the Mistress;" the old lady struck by a protagonist's car in "The Men and the Girls;" and Zoe, the forthright, city-bred innocent of her current novel.
"Next of Kin" explores the aftermath of death and its effect on the survivors. The story opens with the funeral of Caro Meredith, California-born wife of English dairy farmer Robin Meredith, dead of a brain tumor in her forties. Robin's grief is complicated by his dead wife's long detachment from the farm and from himself. Caro, a rootless wanderer who always wanted to belong somewhere, to someone, could never embrace the land-bound farm life and left her husband's bed years earlier. Robin feels, sadly, bitterly, that she never tried.
The center of Caro's life was Judy, her and Robin's adopted daughter. Judy, so close to her mother, resents Robin as a remote, distant man who never loved Caro properly. Robin is awkward with Judy, so much Caro's daughter, and, truth be told, he never wanted to adopt and was devastated to learn Caro had married without telling him she could have no children.
Robin's brother, Joe, beset with private worries and longings, and a young, needy wife, mourns Caro as the emblem of freedom and otherness in his life. Joe runs the leased family farm after Robin left crop farming to establish his own dairy farm. Their parents, Dilys and Harry, too old now to run things on their own, see Joe, their favorite, as the repository of all their hopes and the productivity of their lives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Trollope at her best! July 20 2000
Format:Paperback
I've read a couple of Joanna Trollope books, and one thing that always fascinates me are all the details and insight she puts into her books. For example, when I read "The rector's wife" I was sure she must have lived close to the church. Now I am just as convinced she must have been a farmer. I am certainly not a farmer, and I'm not at all interested in it, so it's a great achievement that I think this becomes so fascinating - tha Farm and the Earth.
The story is about a farming family and we get to follow three generations, grandfather/mother, their two sons with families, and the grandchildren. Because of this the book contains much more than just the farming issues, even though that's the background setting. One of Trollopes great qualities is her ability to make people come to life, and this book is one of the best examples of this. She easily switches between Harry, the grandfather who is depressed over the fact that he's too old to keep his farm, and Judy, the grand daughter in her twenties who's living in London and searches for love and her place in the family.
The story is rich and complex, but it never loses touch and you eagerly follow what's going to happen. After the death of Judy's mother, a friend of Judy's come to visit from London, and with her as an outsider not knowing all the rules, things start to change. It's gripping, funny, warm and sad. It's very good! This book set me off in a Trollope-phase and I'm working my way through them all now.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Next of Kin Aug. 1 2001
Format:Hardcover
This is a good read, a little reminisent of some of the Catherine Cookson books. The story evolves around the death of the American wife of Robin and how her life impacted on his family and the neighbors in this English village. The arrival of a young friend of his step daughter adds a nice touch. The arrival of Zoe brings about a great many changes in the family and a growth of charachter in Robin. However, this is not a new book. It was first published in 1996 and readers should probably check their shelves before rushing out to purchase this book I wish I had. Because now I have the hardover novel I purchased in '96 and a trade copy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Finally in America July 10 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I discovered this author while in England in 1997 and again in Canada in 1998. I am glad to see her now being actively published and accepted in the U.S. Her books are not rapid action; they are slow and thoughtful, developing the personalities and emotions of the characters through their reactions to real life occurrences. They leave the reader with much to ponder. Of the two books I have read, this is my favorite so far, and it is totally different than the other book in character, circumstance, and theme.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to her usual standards. July 24 2000
Format:Paperback
Although I enjoyed the book as a whole, I didn't think it had the depth that you usually find with her work. However, the characters were realistic and believable, and the author did a wonderful job of making us realize the emotional pain that can be inflicted on people due to miscommunication and assumptions.
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