17/07/2005

Brother and Sister

The more Joanna Trollope books I read, the more I appreciate her as a writer. Perhaps she's mellowed over the years, or perhaps it's me. Whatever the reason, I found this one of her best novels, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it over the past few days.

The plot revolves around Nathalie and her brother Dave, both of whom were adopted as children. They had good childhoods and developed a close bond with each other; as adults they're pretty well-balanced, both in happy relationships with children of their own. There evidently a few family stresses under the surface, cleverly hinted at in the early chapters, but basically it seems that these two are contented, productive adults.

The catalyst who provokes the main events of the novel is Sasha, girlfriend of one of Nathalie's husband's employees. Sasha is making a psychological study of adults who were adopted in childhood, and is eager to interview Nathalie - who, to date, has had no inclination to find out about her birth parents. But answering questions, and thinking deeply about her childhood as well as her bond with her own daughter, Nathalie begins to feel a longing to know more of her history.

So the book is about her search, and that of Dave who joins in. It's about the effect it has on their spouses and children, on their adoptive parents, and on the birth mothers themselves. I don't know how realistic the emotions are, as I'm not well-acquainted with anyone who's been through this kind of thing, but it felt very believable to me. I was caught up in everyone's feelings as I read, seeing multiple perspectives, aware that for every positive consequence there were also negative ones.

I didn't get quite such a sense of knowing all the characters myself as I do from (say) Rosamunde Pilcher's novels, nor did I find myself shocked out of preconceived ideas as I do often when reading Libby Purves' work. But I did feel I'd understood far better what it might be like to be adopted, to be an adoptive parent, or even to have given up a baby for adoption. Joanna Trollope dealt fairly with all her people and brought the whole to a satisfactory conclusion. Recommended.

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