Family ties bind rather too tightly in the bestselling author’s latest capable snapshot of British middle-class domesticity.
Trollope (The Other Family, 2010, etc.), who has created her own genre of scrupulously anatomized family relationships over 16 highly successful novels, now wraps her readable prose around the problem territory of excessive parental expectations. Rachel Brinkley has given her life to raising her three sons and now that they are adults inevitably has strong views about their partners. Dreamy Petra was hand-picked for brilliant, impossible Ralph, but eldest Edward made his own choice, Swedish Sigrid, who has never felt wholly accepted by her in-laws. Charlotte, newly married to youngest Luke, suffers disapproval when she falls pregnant, too early by Rachel’s standards. When Ralph’s business fails and Petra refuses to move house to help him take a job in London, a crisis of a kind blows up, compounded by Petra’s sudden friendship with another man. Rachel wants to get involved, but it’s the younger generation which finds solutions as daughters talk to mothers, sons to each other and Rachel is finally forced to confront a changed landscape.
With conversations between pairs of characters substituting for events, this is a smoothly drawn but comparatively lackluster parable of family dynamics.