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Daughters-in-Law Paperback – Feb 7 2012
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Praise for Joanna Trollope:
"We grow attached to her characters whose weaknesses — and triumphs — are our own."
— The Gazette
"Simply reach for any novel by Joanna Trollope: To do so is to put your finger on the very pulse of Western Civilization — its passions, its concerns, its trends."
— The Globe and Mail
"A writer at the height of her powers."
— Women's Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
JOANNA TROLLOPE is the author of a number of historical and contemporary novels including The Choir, A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector's Wife, The Men and the Girls and A Spanish Lover.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
this book yet but have to order it early to make sure it is available in time. Will
review after 15th of March when we meet to discuss same book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But the crazier the world gets, the more there are times when quiet compassion for the vagaries of the human condition is balm for the reader. This time, like every other, that is exactly what Trollope delivers.
Rachel and Anthony raised three sons. She's a vigorous, involved mother whose kitchen is the natural hub of the family. The two oldest sons are married and now the third has found his bride. Oldest son Edward and Scandinavian wife Sigrid have a daughter and an ordered life. Middle son Ralph's wife Petra was an art student of Anthony's who was taken under their wing and presented to their son; they have two very young sons. Now Luke has wed Charlotte, who also is the baby of her family.
Even during the wedding party scenes, the smallest ripples shimmer across the page to show that, although it appears all is well in these lovely lives, appearances are as deceiving as always. Everything and everyone at first appears competent, compassionate and capable. But they're nearly all hiding secrets of shame or fear of failing in ways that set each other off. Families, after all, always push the right buttons.
Things come to a head when one son's financial woes are taken on as a problem of the entire family and his wife has her own ideas about being led along by the nose to a solution. She strikes up a friendship with another man. It doesn't help that Rachel turns out to be the kind of mother-in-law who considers herself the head of the family, including the family of each of her sons. Her insistence that things be done a certain way and her ability to stick foot in mouth only add to the problems.
Then, just when it appears that each separate house of cards in the various families will collapse, Trollope's characters do what they usually manage to do. They speak openly and honestly to each other about themselves. They notice their own failings. They try to see situations from other people's points of view. And because Trollope writes about each character as if she or he were the main character of their own stories, the reader is able to see these other points of view as well.
Trollope's strength has always been this calm ability to treat characters as individuals who can actually carry through a line of thinking that encompasses more than themselves. Her novels are studies of minute shifts in people's perceptions of themselves and how they fit into their own worlds. Although their scale is small, their accomplishment is a great, good thing.
Trollope, the author of about 10 or so previous novels, does not write "chick-lit". The characters in her books - all stand-alones - are extremely well drawn and the plots are not the simple, simpering plots of the average "chick-lit" novels. Trollope writes about families, in general; families that are facing troubled times, either by financial problems or interpersonal relationship problems. The women are not "beautiful", or "brilliant" or any of those empty adjectives used in most works of fiction to tiresomely describe any female. The men are not "handsome", "brilliant", or "fabulously wealthy", either. Joanna Trollope writes about families in England - usually middle class - who have many of the same problems as the rest of us have.
In "Daughters-In-Law" we find Rachel and Anthony, who have raised three sons, all now in their 20's and 30's, and all married off. Rachel - definitely a "mother-in-charge" of her sons, has found it difficult to relinquish the leadership role to the next generation. However, the two older daughters-in-law are, for the most part,content to keep the family dynamics pretty well the same. It is the addition of the youngest son's bride to the family that has added tension and stirred up problems the older two daughters-in-law have pretty well attended to. One of Trollope's great gifts as a writer is to make the secondary characters as interesting in their own rights as the main characters. We want to know what happens because we find all the characters "interesting". (That doesn't mean that an author only should write about "likable" characters; Tova Reich is a master of writing about interesting but venal characters, and her books are always interesting!)
Trollope looks at the interfering-mother-in-law problem from all angles. Grandparents, children, and grandchildren are all viewed in terms of causes or fallout from this problematical woman and her life and family going forward. Joanna Trollope has written a masterful look at the modern family.
I did think there was a lack of subtlety and imagination when it came to the situation with Charlotte and it was hard to be sympathetic to Petra because she came across as so unlikable.
I would also have liked to have Rachel's character (the mother in law) and motives more clearly defined earlier in the story but perhaps the late character development was done by design. We got to know her eventually the way the other characters in the story did.
One of the things I love about Joanna Trollope's books is her ability to show a family situation from multiple points of view but in this case there were so many family members and so many points of view that none of them really got the attention that they deserved.
I do wish Trollope would stop having her characters address each other by silly nicknames. In this case she kept having the brothers call each other "bro" which didn't seem to fit with their personalities or the dialogue. I can't help but wonder if it isn't an attempt on her part to identify with and portray people who are young, if so she's failing and needs to give it up.
All in all it was a good read with a satisfying if predictable ending. As both a daughter in law and a mother in law I found it thought provoking and entertaining.
The focus begins with the son's parents,Anthony and Rachel, as their son, Luke marries. It's always fun to start a book at a wedding, especially when the new father-in-law has kind thoughts about the bride's derriere! Anthony and Rachel have absorbed two previous daughters-in-law into their family traditions, and they expect the new Charlotte will be as tractable at the others.
We come to learn that the others feel distressed by the constant tug of Rachel on the lives of her grown and married sons. Rachel says things she should not. The whole family is thrown into taking sides.
As the story moves on, we have a variety of third-person focuses, so that we know what is going on in the minds of the many characters, including the children's.
One of my favorite quotations from this book is this one: "You can change your situation, but it will be the same one if you don't change yourself."
Learning to live with others by respecting the person as is, not trying to change him/her or interfere in the decisions young adults make for themselves as a couple--what a great theme and reminder for the complicated web of families most people have.