Sunday, 26 February 2012

Spring day and Joanna Trollope

Yesterday was a warmish, blue-sky-ed day when scarves were just a splash of colour round your coat rather than wrapped three times round your neck to keep the cold out. I went for a quiet walk (without gloves!) and did the supermarket shopping before coming back to deal with the website and business emails. I still feel surprise and pleasure when someone emails to say that they like the appearance and the stories of The Whicharts and Five Farthings. This is usually a good weekend to sort out the paperwork as orders dip slightly, though they often rise the following week when payday arrives.

I've finished reading Joanna Trollope's The Soldier's Wife this week and really recommend it. I don't seem to have many of her novels left - I suspect I sent quite a few of the paperbacks to the charity shop when lack of space forced me to prune back the growing bookshelves. I did find a copy of The Choir tucked behind a bit of double-shelving, so have started on Chapter One and have been drawn back into the world of Aldminster. Some years later and set on an army base, The Soldier's Wife is one of her best - a fascinating character study of a marriage drifting and the effect the army has on wife and children. It might provide camaraderie to the men, but the effect on wife and children is to be isolated and set aside, even from their extended family. There's a painful scene between Dan (army husband) and small daughter who very simply states that 'We're all here because of you' with brutal, childish candour showing her unhappiness at being expected to cope and put up with the sustained absences of a much-loved father. I'd summarise the book as a study in loneliness where a loving family is struggling to communicate and make each other happy. Noel Streatfeild wrote in a similar vein about husbands with a vocation rather than a profession. In her case, the fathers were vicars, not army men, but the isolation from the family is still true.

This isn't a book to read to make you happy, though it's a book to read for its flawed characters who intrigue as much as they infuriate. I hadn't read a Joanna Trollope for years and now I'm wondering why. I think I'll start again with Daughters-in-Law.

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