Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope
Two years ago I thought I might not read another of Joanna Trollope’s novels, after I’d been rather disappointed by this one. On a recent library trip, though, I wanted something for immediate reading and, since her books are at the very least reliably easy to get into, I picked up Brothers and Sisters. In common with several of her other books, it turns on the repercussions that a decision has, not only on the person who makes it, but all of those around her, the ever-widening ripples caused by throwing quite a small pebble into the water. Nathalie, worried about her small daughter’s ear trouble, inflates her anxiety until it becomes a preoccupation with finding her birth mother, and establishing her origins. Unfortunately, she insists that her brother David, also adopted, must take part in the quest and since he has always been under Nathalie’s thumb, he agrees, despite the disquiet of his wife Marnie.
Emotional upheaval ensues, not only for Nathalie and David, but for their families and even for the employees of the business run by Nathalie’s husband. Nathalie is only concerned, too, with finding the two women who gave birth to unwanted babies – she lacks the imagination to foresee the possible destruction which she may be bringing down on them, and their own families. Yes, emotional growth may be possible, but does Nathalie have the right to choose it for everyone else?
This isn’t a subtle book, and it gives the issues a pretty cursory trot round the block. As usual, you want to give the main character, Nathalie, a good shake, and tell her to take a good look at what she has, but Trollope knows (and we know too) that people just don’t work like that. It’s a quick read, with just about enough depth to satisfy at the time (though some of the statements about adoption are trite enough to make you scream), but I couldn’t remember much about it within a couple of days of finishing it.