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.


  1. Hm - I am always a little wary of things that look like "issue books", and it sounds like this one isn't a good one to change my mind. :)

  2. I am leery of 'adoption' books since the experiences are so frequently negative or not realistic. Did I leave a comment here once about how much I loved JT's Other People's Children? It seemed to me to be 'spot on' as you might say. :<)

  3. I have been disappointed by her recent books too. Her earlier books showed great wisdom and good prose, I hope it returns. The last one, its name escapes me was very jagged.

  4. I read all of JT's early novels, but haven't picked up on any of her more recent work. To be honest, from what you say, I don't think this is going to tempt me back.

  5. Jenny, I think you're right!

    Nan, I liked that one *much* better. I'm a stepchild myself, and there was much in it that I recognised, and I thought she handled it with wisdom and sensitivity.

    Carole, I loved some of the earlier books - The Rector's Wife, for instance, took a very specific problem and dealt with it superbly. I've read it several times.

    TT, absolutely, don't try. I was looking for an easy read, but there are better things to do with your time.


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