Friday, June 10, 2011

Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

43. Daughters-in-Law
by Joanna Trollope
fiction, 2011
Kindle book - 24
finished, 5/24/11

I've read one other Joanna Trollope book called Other People's Children which I thought was excellent. She has her finger on the pulse of modern families, and does a really good job of presenting them in all their different varieties, without judgement. I think she's a wonderful writer. I really must read more of her work. I feel a bit of a Joanna Trollope marathon coming on, much like my Maeve Binchy one a few months ago.

This is a case of a book I almost didn't read. In the first chapter Anthony was ogling his future daughter-in-law at the church wedding. I thought, uh oh. I don't want to read about this. But I made myself continue to see if he acted upon his feelings or if those feelings were mentioned again. He didn't and they weren't. I just don't know why the author chose to even include this passage. The man was portrayed in the rest of the book as a good, kind, faithful husband so why put a rather negative impression in the reader's mind right at the start of the story?

Anthony and Rachel live an enviable life in the English countryside. They are happy together. He is an artist, and an art professor who has retired but still teaches one course. She has been the center of the family and her job has been cooking, organizing, gardening, keeping everyone together. Even as her three sons have grown up and moved away, she still has Sunday luncheons and celebratory occasions at the house. She thinks she does a great job, but behind her back her boys and their wives complain about her taking too much charge.

Although from the outside, I 'look' very much like her, in reality I am not at all. I let my children be. I don't insist on celebrating holidays or birthdays together. I do not pressure them to visit. I love my kids to pieces but I do not expect them to be my 'little ones' any longer. I want them to have their own lives. My main anxieties or worries are, as they have always been, concerned with health and safety - the only two issues I bring up with them if I am worried. My sense of self is not dependent on their wanting to be here, whereas Rachel's really is. She is a problem-solver as many women are and is unhappy when her solutions are not requested or required.
Rachel's mind and body thrived upon activity, upon practical and immediate answers to even intractable-seeming dilemmas, and, when she was thwarted of the opportunity to offer instant resolution, she found herself utterly devastated by her own helplessness.
When she finds her Sunday routine upset, Joanna Trollope bares this woman's soul to the reader.
... resentment she felt at being forced to have Sunday lunch in Shoreditch rather than at her own large and familiar kitchen table, she knew she couldn't trust herself to say anything of which she could subsequently be remotely proud.
The book fairly presented each character so the reader got to know and understand each one. There was just one false note - of a young man working at a nature reserve, who seemed to me to be an unnecessary addition to the book. He was more of a device than a person.

Daughters-in-Law could work as a primer for those of us who find ourselves suddenly and surprisingly with grown children. Where did the years go, and how do we cope? But it also serves as a guide to those children. Each son's marriage and lifestyle is different from the other, and from that of their parents'. We see how they are all trying to make their own lives. When the youngest boy Luke's wife wants to have his parents to their new home, he says,
"I have never had my parents to a meal. Not ever. In my whole life. We always went home, We went home to eat. That's what we did. Always."
And his new young wife replies,
"That's why it's worth making an effort -"
The reader is privy to conversations that as parents we do not ever hear. The young couple must work out which parents they visit and how often. It is an amazement to Luke that Charlotte, his wife, wants to tell her mother about her pregnancy before Luke's.

Sigrid, the wife of Ed, the oldest son tells Charlotte that Rachel
"... is as she is because no one ever opposed her, no one ever challenged her position as the only woman in a circle of men. But now she is having to learn something new, and she must learn to hold her tongue, and that comes hard with her."
It is lovely to see the 'children' connecting with one another, and getting together in one of their homes, without parents. For this is their future. And all children know this on some level - that eventually their brothers and sisters will be the family after the parents have died.

This is a book where people grow and change inside themselves. They think and feel as real people do. I really enjoyed Daughters-in-Law immensely, and learned a lot about both parents and adult children. It was fascinating, illuminating, and filled with wisdom and truth. I loved it.

My friend Kay wrote a wonderful entry about this book, and you may read it here.


  1. I read and enjoyed Other People's Children, so will look out for this one, thanks for the review. Kathy

  2. I so enjoyed it, Kathy. Thanks for coming by.

  3. Another wonderful post. And a book which sounds as if it has a good message for all of us as mothers.

    I always worked extra hard to try to accommodate everyone else's wishes, with the result that when my daughter was grown and married and made it perfectly clear to everyone that she would rather spend every Sunday night with the couple who are her and her husband's best friends, it really hurt.

    Even now, the fact that my husband and I get to spend Thanksgiving and most of the Christmas holidays alone still hurts. They don't invite us and if I invite them, it's clear they'd rather be elsewhere.

    I honestly don't know what I did to deserve this. I've tried never to meddle, never to criticize, to applaud and accept adult choices which I would never have made.

    I do know, though, that it's very very hard -- and sometimes lonely -- learning to let go.

    Take care, Canadian Chickadee

  4. Canadian Chickadee, what a personal, heartfelt response. And that is what this book does. It makes the reader really think. And it shows the point of view of the both the parents and the 'kids.'

    Do you know a book called Little Christmas by Agnes Sligh Turnbull? I wrote about it here:

    You would love it, I'm quite sure. It touches on some of the things you mentioned.

    Kids can hurt their parents, and vice versa, sometimes without intention or knowledge. It isn't always easy to sort out just what everyone is thinking and how to respond to it.

    I so hope there are other times you can get together. Just you and your daughter perhaps? I wonder if she has any notion how sad you feel.

  5. I would like to say that whilst I enjoyed Joanna's latest, it isn't my favourite as I preferred her early writing to the books she is currently writing (sorry, Joanna!) I had the priviledge of interviewing Joanna several years ago when her book Girl from the South was published. I would recommend this to those of you living in the States, especially the Southern States, as this is what Joanna refers to in the title. My own favourites are The Choir (her first contemporary novel) and The Rector's Wife.
    Regarding this, her latest book, I thought father Anthony was a bit feeble - anything for a quiet life for him, with his painting and his birds! Perhaps a slightly selfish man masquerading as a quiet one.
    Margaret P

  6. Margaret, thanks for the recommendations. I loved both that I've read and look forward to others. I was kind of fond of Anthony.:<)

  7. I LOVE Joanna Trollop. Thank you for the book recommendation! :)

    Do you read Elizabeth Noble? They have similar styles and I think you'd enjoy her books.

  8. Kittie Flyn, I don't, and thank you for the recommendation!!

  9. Nan, I loved reading your thoughts on this book. I'm always a little nervous about others reading the books that I've read, especially ones that cause such a personal response in me. I want people to feel the same and that doesn't always happen. Kind of like when you recommend that someone try a restaurant that you love and then they get bad service or become ill afterward. Somehow, it makes you feel responsible in some small measure. So, whew!! Glad you liked it.

    I loved your comments about your kids and having known you for such a long time, I know what a caring and fabulous mother you are. Hugs about that.

    Thanks also for the shoutout about my review. I guess I could be so honest because I knew that my mom-in-law will never see my thoughts. Not that she would disagree, but she might get her feelings hurt somehow.

    I'm looking forward to adding more Joanna Trollope books to my list of to-be-reads. She does very well with relationships and that's the type of book that is so appealing to me at certain times.

  10. Kay, I'm so used to being out of sync with others in terms of books that it doesn't faze me. :<) I am always pleasantly surprised when something I like is popular and well-read and reviewed.

  11. Thanks, Nan, you're a good listener. If we were closer, I'd offer to take you out for a cup of tea!
    Have a great weekend,
    Canadian Chickadee

  12. Joanna Trollope is one of the authors my mother-in-law likes to read, and sometimes she includes one of her books in the parcels she sends me for Christmas and my birthday, so I have read some but can't remember the titles.
    I am glad to say that my mother is a lot more like you than like the lady in the book - she lets me and my sister be, and lead our own grown-up lives, but at the same time we know we are always welcome at her home and she is always there for us to give advice if we want to, without offering it when we don't require it.

  13. This is very relevant to my stage of life, it is definitetly on the to be read soon list! Also borrowed the first of the Deborah Crombie. Looking forward to it!

    Keep well and have a wonderful weekend, Nan :-)

  14. And I'd come, Canadian Chickadee!

    Librarian, and their reward is you coming over to their allotment, and spending other meaningful time with them. I think I mentioned that the couple in the movie, Another Year reminded me of the things you've said about your parents - not just the allotment, but partially that. They seem like a good couple to me, your folks.

    I think you'll like them both, Niki - please do write and let me know what you think. I haven't sent the article yet, but it is cut out and waiting on my desk. :<)

  15. I have read all her books as they came out but I have yet to read this latest one, that will be remedied when it is published in paperback. Like others I did prefer her earlier books, though her social commentary is stronger now the others had more atmosphere about them somehow.
    I'm sure you would love The Choir and The Rector's Wife. The Choir stars our local cathedral in Gloucester.

  16. Carole, I think I told you that we did visit Gloucester Cathedral when we stayed in Forthampton for a week in 1992. I think there was a lot of 'atmosphere' in Daughters-in-Law - real sense of various places, interiors, and relationships. I will be interested to hear what you think.

  17. I enjoyed your review about Daughters-In-Law. I haven't read any of the author's previous books but I value your recommendation (and Kay's). Sometimes it feels therapeutic to read a book like this that makes me think and analyze my own behaviors.

  18. Great write-up once again...I have ordered it from my the descriptions you share!
    I am reading a non-fiction that you might be familiar with:
    Lois Holes: I'll Never Marry a Farmer...wonderful! You'll love it!
    (so will M&M)
    Thanks Nan!
    Happy reading, gardening and cooking...
    P.S. Yes, you are a gifted listener and a gentle, lovely lady!

  19. Like several others who have commented I have to add my preference for The Choir and The Rector's Wife. Masterpiece Theatre did a fine job with these more than a decade ago. If you enjoy classical choral music the CD from The Choir is excellent.
    I've read most of Joanna Trollope's other novels and didn't think the characterizations and plots were at all the equal of these earlier works.

  20. You must definitely read The Choir, Nan. Re- visit Gloucester in your imagination.
    Though some of her
    books are better than others, I think they are all worth a try. She tends to be less 'cosy' than Maeve Binchy. So often it depends on the mood we are in when we read a book, whether it pleases us or hits the spot.

  21. Great review. Having sons I can kind of identify -- one DIL puts her family first but the other one says the first who asks...

    I've read other books by this author and enjoyed them. Added this one to my list. You mentioned Maeve Binchy I believe..I've read all of hers and those of Rosamunde Pilcher and now starting on Marcia Willett's. I really may need to retire someday so I can read all these books I keep adding to my list !

  22. I read all her books and would love to get to this one as well. Sounds good.

  23. Margot, and it is simply a very good read!

    Joanne, thank you for your kind words, and I will look into the book! Thanks.

    Morning's Minion, I will surely have to begin reading her right from the beginning! I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks for the recommendations.

    Carole, what you said is so very true. And I will try The Choir soon!

    JC, there are quite a few book reports on Maeve Binchy if you are interested. Click on authors tab under the blog header picture. I like some of R. Pilcher - especially Winter Solstice, The Shell Seekers, and her book of short stories, Flowers in the Rain.

    Mystica, I have to read her other work!

  24. I've read two of Trollope's earlier novels and I have another by her in my stacks (The Other Family), but this one sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. Excellent review, as always, Nan!

  25. Les, which have you read? I've gotten recommendations for The Choir, The Rector's Wife, Girl from the South.

  26. I've read The Rector's Wife and The Best of Friends. I only have vague recollections of each of those, but I think I enjoyed them.

  27. Thanks, Les for letting me know. I do plan to read more of JT.


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