For 76 year old Ms Trollope it must be akin to an older woman hard at work with her knitting needles, constructing yet another sweater for one of her umpteen family members or friends to see him or her through another winter. It’s done with love, but she’s been doing it for so long, that old darling, now into her own autumn years, that it’s almost rote. But, such is her skill, no two sweaters are exactly the same – there’s enough to differentiate this one from the countless others. There’s no pattern book spread out in front of her, it’s all done in the mind and it is always genuinely welcomed by its new owner, as have all those that have come before it.
For this reader and fan, delving into this title, Joanna Trollope’s twentieth, is akin to enveloping oneself in that knitted sweater for the first time. The reader/wearer knows it was put together with immense affection for him/her and despite being of the same basic material, it is known it will be of immense comfort during the days that lie ahead until winter, or indeed the novel, is finished with. Trollope tomes are brim full of that comfort and are never a demanding read by any stretch – sorry, there’ll be a few puns en route here. There are always underlying issues to be mulled over, but nothing too taxing as her characters, give or take a few foibles here and there, are usually pleasant people to be with. Why, they could be me or you.
There’s not a wide variance, therefore, between Joanna T’s best and worst. ‘City of Friends’ would sit somewhere in the middle and yep, it is exceptionally snug and congenial. It is one that will welcome you back into its pages, keeping you happy and content as you make the journey from cover to cover.
The titular city is London. The friends are Stacey, a high flying exec with an equity firm; Gaby, an investment banker; Melissa, a management consultant and Beth, an author and expert on human relations in the business world. And it’s very much work that defines these ladies. But having known each other since they were trail blazers, entering the hitherto male domain of studying economics back in the day, they are starting to find that, just when life should be going swimmingly for them after all the hard yards, their forties are not exactly turning out to be all beer and skittles. One has to cope with a hubby receiving a promotion on the very day she’s given her marching orders. She is fired for requesting more flexible working conditions. Another of our ladies is about to encounter stormy seas in her relationship with her younger same sex partner. One, partner-less, has to cope with her son reuniting with his birth father. The fourth major protagonist has a crisis of conscience at the situation one of her mates finds herself in, the other being reliant on this pal to exit her from potential penury
As we have come to expect from this seller of over seven million copies of her books over the years, Trollope manages to weave it all together so seamlessly there’s not a stitch out of place. The world will change for several of the quartet as they spread their wings to embrace new directions, once various crises have been averted or even succumbed to at first, but then conquered.
Despite the massive strides women have made for their betterment last century and into this one, we all know it is still hardly a level playing field. No matter how well educated or successful, they still have to struggle, whereas the male of the species sails through. The sewing together of career, marriage and motherhood remains fraught and few manage to do it all without some personal cost to one at least of those areas of life. This is the plight that is at the nub of Trollope’s oeuvre. Given that, the males involved here are also mainly sympathetic beings, despite one in particular being a really silly drip. The only truly odious personage is female – a manipulator trying to drive one of our career girls out of her home.
Twice divorced Trollope has plainly had her own tangles in life, but we trust she can continue to ply us with these sweaters of novels as they are generally purlers. She has, for decades, been casting them off, these darn good yarns (I know, cringe-worthy puns she would never stoop to) for many years to come.
Ms Trollope’s website = https://www.joannatrollope.com/