28/08/2008

Sisters and Husbands (by Amanda Brookfield)

I hadn't heard of Amanda Brookfield until a couple of months ago, when someone recommended 'The Simple Rules of Love' to me. I enjoyed it, and having decided to look for more books by the same author, was pleased to discover one fairly soon in a charity shop.

'Sisters and Husbands' is about two sisters: Becky and Anna. The book is written mainly from Becky's perspective; she is the younger, and has always rather envied her sister, who seems to have it all. She is attractive, intelligent, happily married, wealthy, wise, and apparently calm and unflappable. Becky has rather a difficult relationship with her mother, ever since her father died in a swimming accident twenty years previously, but Anna usually manages to mediate and keep everyone reasonably happy.

However, other than the occasional pang, Becky isn't seriously jealous of her sister. She looks to her for advice and encouragement, and loves her dearly. Becky is going through a difficult time at present; her husband Joe is trying to become a restaurant owner, but that means putting a lot of time into his training, and a great deal of money into something that isn't guaranteed to succeed. Becky has a good job, but would really much rather give it up and embark on parenthood.

As Joe works longer and longer hours, Becky becomes frustrated and does something rash. Meanwhile Anna is unexpectedly pregnant, and determined not to have the baby. As a result of these and other stresses, unexpected memories of the past revive, and Becky realises that her view of their family is not at all the same as Anna's view. Both of them have to mature and change, and review their relationships with their husbands before they can move on.

Although I really wish novels like this made less use of bad language - one four-letter word which I've hardly ever heard in real life appeared countless times in conversations in this book - I very much enjoyed it. The characters are sympathetic and three dimensional, and there are some thought-provoking themes to do with fidelity, loyalty, and priorities.

'Sisters and Husbands' is mainly character-driven, but there are plenty of subplots to keep the pages turning, some unexpectedly moving moments near the end, and - in my opinion - a satisfying and hopeful conclusion. Recommended as light women's fiction.

Not currently in print, but fairly widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th August 2008

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