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Review: Mum and Dad, by Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope has been writing for over 30 years, is classified as a romantic novelist and admits to being a more social than political writer. However, to many she is so much more with her insightful portrayal of characters and everyday relationships. In a Guardian interview she stated: ‘What I’m trying to do in all these novels is mirror a contemporary situation. I’m not providing any solutions. I’m simply saying: “Can we please get the conversation going?”’

Joanna Trollope has written over 20 novels and to me she never disappoints as someone who captures family life with all its ups and downs and invariably offers us a new perspective. Her focus in this latest book is on Gus and Monica who settled in southern Spain back in the 1990s. Gus has worked hard for over 25 years establishing a vineyard, to no mean acclaim, while his forbearing wife Monica runs an adjoining shop. The narrative begins with Gus suffering a stroke and being hospitalised. Suddenly the three adult children back in the UK with their own partners and families find the pattern of their lives challenged as they face the reality of this unforeseen dilemma: what to do about mum and dad? Trollope goes on to explore the dynamics between parents and children of the different generations, between siblings and within families, and I found these interesting. She captures the smallest nuances between individuals against a background of day-to-day normality across kitchen tables. She constantly surprises and delights the reader and always shows her understanding of the human condition with all its foibles.

On a warm spring day in Pittenweem the setting of the rural Bodega seemed spot on. I could almost see the sun-kissed vineyards of the red Tempranillo grape, land enriched by the sediment from the oak barrels drawn out and applied as fertiliser around the vines, and the sense of completeness with its cycle of natural organic growth and death. Trollope must be the matriarch of the ‘Aga saga’ but she is always bang up to date. I find myself genuinely interested in each of her characters, and her wisdom and optimism leave me feeling genuinely satisfied. I enjoyed this book very much.

Library Member