Sunday, February 14, 2010
The other family - Joanna Trollope
The Other Family is a very satisfying novel about change, creating new opportunities & letting go of the past. Chrissie & her daughters, Tamsin, Dilly & Amy, have led a charmed life. Chrissie’s partner, Richie, is a singer. She met him in Newcastle, fell in love & convinced him to swim in a bigger sea. They moved to London, she managed his career & he was successful. But, he was 20 years older than Chrissie & left behind another life when he moved south. His wife, Margaret & son, Scott never saw him again. He never divorced Margaret so he couldn’t or wouldn’t marry Chrissie & after his sudden death from a heart attack, the problems begin. Chrissie & her older daughters are shocked & bewildered by the inevitable changes. Chrissie has always hated the thought of Margaret & Scott & been hurt by Richie’s refusal to marry her. She’s upset by the terms of Richie’s will as he’s left some important things to his first family. The legal ramifications of their situation mean that she will have only the house & she can’t afford to live there. Margaret & Scott are also changed & eventually liberated by Richie’s death. Margaret had managed Richie’s career in the early days & that’s still her business, she’s an agent. Scott is now in his 30s, single, a lawyer but with no focus in his life. The shock of Richie’s death & the terms of his will, force them out of their rut & into tentative communication with Richie’s second family. Amy & Scott are the first to make contact & eventually when Amy goes to Newcastle to learn more about her father’s roots, she finds a direction for her life that links the past & the future. Chrissie & her older daughters are pretty unlikeable, spoilt, selfish & very resentful of Amy’s attempts to see the Newcastle side of the situation. My sympathies were much more with Amy, Margaret & Scott. Margaret even has a cat called Dawson who reminded me so much of Abby. Are all cats the same if they have indulgent slaves at their beck & call? Dawson manipulated Margaret just as Abby manipulates me. Any novel with such a well-observed cat as a main character is worth reading. I love the domestic details in Trollope's novels. She's one of my favourite contemporary novellists. To me she's in a direct line from my favourite writers of the 30s & 40s. She emphasizes character, place & plot & I love that.