A new Joanna Trollope novel is always an event. But in this case, I have to say, it’s not a completely happy one.
The book features four female friends confronting an impressive range of middle-aged crises, from sudden unemployment to the break-up of a long relationship, unhappy teenage children to ageing parents.
Many of Trollope’s considerable qualities are on display, including her ability to juggle a rich selection of strong storylines and to cast a sharp but not-unkind eye on family life. So why isn’t City of Friends more engaging?
"Trollope makes all of the main characters extremely high-achieving and endlessly capable"
The problem, I think, is not just that it’s all so relentlessly middle-class—a clichéd criticism of Trollope admittedly, but still hard to avoid here. (At one particularly tragic point, a mother is faced with the “nightmare of kids squabbling over the sashimi”.) It’s more that in her obvious desire to celebrate strong, empowered women, Trollope makes all of the main characters extremely high-achieving and endlessly capable.
They’re essentially invulnerable: a fact that inevitably robs the book of much of the potential for real drama.
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