A Passionate Man (by Joanna Trollope)

I started reading books by Joanna Trollope about ten years ago, intially borrowing them from other people. Since then I've collected almost all of them, and have started re-reading, only to find that I was missing just one of her novels.

I was very pleased, therefore, to find 'A Passionate Man' in a charity shop in the UK.

The main character is Archie, a well-respected doctor, who is happily married to Liza; they have three young children. Their only real worry is that their nine-year-old son Thomas has just started boarding school, and is clearly not happy there.

Archie is extremely close to his father, Andrew, and Liza sometimes finds this frustrating, as if they haven't really let go of each other. It's Andrew who is particularly keen for his grandson to be in boarding school, and somehow they find it impossible to refuse.

Then Andrew falls in love with the widowed Marina, a wealthy and glamorous American. All the family find her surprisingly charming... except for Archie.

Meanwhile, a young teacher at the school where Liza works develops a serious crush on her. Also, a neighbouring farmer decides to sell some land, creating hot controversy in the village. Archie and Liza find themselves drawing further and further apart, although neither is entirely sure why.

The book is very well-written, with an excellent picture of English village life in the late 20th century, and great observations of the stresses and tensions that can arise in even the happiest of families.

I'm pretty sure I read this about nine or ten years ago, but had totally forgotten the plot - even a couple of entirely unexpected events that trigger further unhappiness and heart-searching from all the people involved, before Archie and Liza can pick up the pieces of their lives and move on to a rather different future.

Emotional in places, amusing in others - Archie and Liza's youngest child, Imogen, is a delightful caricature of a rather spoiled three-year-old - and somewhat thought-provoking.

Recommended. Still in print, eighteen years after publication.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 11th July 2008.

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