02/06/2008

A Spanish Lover (by Joanna Trollope)

When I first started reading Joanna Trollope's books, about eight or nine years ago, I had somewhat mixed feelings about them. The characters are great, the books well-written, but they felt a bit harsh at times. But then I was mainly reading character-driven sagas and light historical novels.

Since then I've read a much wider variety of books, and now find I appreciate Joanna Trollope all the more. I have most of her books on my shelves, so am slowly re-reading some of the ones I read first.

'A Spanish Lover' is the story of Lizzie and Frances, who are twins in their late forties. They're very similar - we never learn if they are in fact identical - but have rather different personalities. They have also taken different roles in life.

Lizzie is the mothering, settled type: she is happily married to Rob, and has four likeable children. They run a business together, and live in a very nice home. The only real problem on the horizon is the recession, which has affected their business rather more seriously than they realise.

Frances has always been more of a wanderer. She travels a lot, has had several temporary relationships, and has never wanted to settle down. She's also much more of a dreamer than Lizzie, although they're very close to each other in many ways. Their parents have a rather bizarre relationship, in that their father has a mistress as well as a wife, each knowing about the other.

The story charts what happens when Frances falls in love on a visit to Spain. It all happens rather fast, and while her family all like her lover very much, they're worried for Frances because they can see no future: he is older, married (albeit separated from his wife) and a Catholic. But Frances needs to exert her independence, and also the side of her that would like to settle down and be more secure.

Meanwhile, Lizzie and Rob have to make a lot of changes in their settled, secure life. The balance is changing, and there are some difficult moments for both of them as they have to learn to live separate lives, and support each other in different ways.

It's nicely done, with believable characters, and very good interactions between them. I particularly liked Lizzie and Rob's children, who play significant parts in the story, and also have some growing-up and maturing to do.

I first read 'A Spanish Lover' in 2003, and found that I'd almost completely forgotten the plot in the intervening five years. Very enjoyable - recommended to anyone who likes fairly gentle modern women's fiction.

Still in print in the UK; widely available second-hand.

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews, 2nd June 2008

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