The prolific Trollope (Next of Kin, 2001, etc.) spins another engaging tale about life‘s twists and turns, occasioned as much by character as circumstance, and the ways family ties both help and hinder.
Since college, art historian Gillon Stokes has alternately fled and returned to Charleston, South Carolina, drawn by love for her relatives but finding them constraining once she’s actually there. When she learns that sister Ashley is pregnant, Gillon decides to leave Charleston again and accept a temporary art conservation job in London so she can avoid perfect Ashley’s sure-to-be-perfect pregnancy. Meanwhile in London, photographer Henry Atkins, in a professional rut, feels ambivalent about live-in girlfriend Tilly’s assertion that it’s time for a commitment. After Gillon moves into a spare room in the apartment he and journalist Tilly share, he’s only too happy to accept her casual invitation to visit her family in Charleston. The Stokeses are Old Charleston, with all the privileges and baggage that position entails, and Henry falls in love with the family, the city, and Gillon. Back for Ashley’s delivery, Gillon is troubled by his uncritical acceptance of her kin and her own betrayal of Tilly, who treated her kindly. While our American heroine learns more about her inability ever to leave home completely (“There’s nowhere else that I feel so vulnerable. And because of that, so alive”), English Tilly also examines her life. Realizing that Henry’s not coming back, she becomes closer to her divorced mother, appreciating the matter-of -fact-comfort that Margot offers. The author deftly sketches her characters’ situations with her usual hardheaded but empathetic understanding of the way the world works for men and women.
Vintage Trollope, fluidly and accessibly written as always, now with an American twist.