Another splendidly nuanced tale of contemporary family life from the always expert Trollope (Other People’s Children, 1999, etc.).
After a seven-year secret liaison with Merrion Palmer, a clever London lawyer, 62-year-old Guy Stockdale, a distinguished judge with an irreproachable reputation, has decided to leave his wife, Laura, and marry his much younger mistress. (As usual, Trollope puts a fresh spin on a hackneyed situation by making the husband rather than the wife the protagonist.) Guy’s decision prompts all concerned to question old loyalties, the past, and the meaning of love itself. Laura, who has felt for years that she paid too high a price in marrying, refuses to sell the family home, where she’s created a beautiful garden, and insists that her eldest and favorite son, Simon, a public-interest lawyer, act as her counsel. Simon, married to Carrie and father of Jack, Rachel, and Emma, is torn between his loyalty to his parents and the needs of his own family. Meanwhile, younger brother Alan, gay and presently unattached, worries that their mother is asking too much of the already overworked Simon. And the three grandchildren resent the strain Laura is imposing on their parents. As the legal proceedings get underway, Carrie, angry at Laura's obstinacy and dependency on Simon, invites Merrion to meet the family. The visit is a success, and the rest of the Stockdales are reconciled to Guy’s choice. But Laura continues to be difficult, Simon remains torn, and Jack, hurting after his first high-school romance ends, seeks comfort from his grandfather. Merrion and Guy feel the demands of kin complicating what had seemed a simple and perfect love.
Masterful storytelling and memorable characters combine to give us a wise and gently truthful take on a highly charged subject.