Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mother of All Strife

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mother of All Strife

Article excerpt

Byline: JACKIE ANNESLEY

DAUGHTERS-IN-LAW by Joanna Trollope (Doubleday, [pounds sterling]18.99; ebook, [pounds sterling]7.69) IF Joanna Trollope's novels were a London store, they would be Peter Jones -- beloved by the middle classes, dependable, based around the home. For her 17th work of fiction, this grande dame of upmarket family dramas has targeted that tricky territory of daughters-in-law, a subject she obviously knows well. From her experience of two daughters and two stepsons, Trollope gives us the Brinkleys of Suffolk.

Rachel is the mother who gave up what career she could have had to raise three boys and cook for her affable husband Anthony, a famous bird painter. But her precious sons are now married off -- Edward, her eldest, to Sigrid, the cool Swedish scientist, Ralph, her difficult middle child to the mysterious, slightly autistic Petra, and her youngest, Luke, to Charlotte (who calls him Lukey), who is beautiful but rather "thick" in the eyes of the clever, cultured, smug Brinkleys. Which leaves the high-maintenance Rachel with lots of time on her hands to take offence at the merest slight or human frailty shown by her daughters-in-law.

Sigrid has the temerity to get married in her homeland and then have a difficult birth, while Charlotte causes an outrage by demanding that Rachel and "Ant" come to Sunday lunch at their tiny London flat instead of the windswept wilds of Suffolk, as has ever been. Her new husband Luke wails, "I have never had my parents to a meal. We always went home. That's what we did!" On the day, it doesn't help that Charlotte attempts to play host in white lace shorts and a gauze top. Then she drops the bombshell, from which point her mother-in-law's world unravels. I say bombshell -- to most of us it would be a mere torn thread in the tapestry of life. But exposing the irrational fears of the sheltered, well-off middle classes, who gasp at anyone who calls a loo a toilet or a sofa a couch, is something at which Trollope excels. …

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