Marrying the Mistress (by Joanna Trollope)

I’ve enjoyed, in a low-key way, most of Joanna Trollope’s novels over the past fifteen years or so. So now, I’m re-reading the ones I haven’t read for a while, interspersed with other books. This is one I last read in 2004, and while I remembered the overall plot, I’d forgotten the actual characters and most of the detail.

The story revolves around Guy, a late middle-aged judge who is married to Laura and has two adult sons, Simon and Alan. As we learn right at the start of the book, he’s been having an affair with a much younger lawyer called Merrion for the past seven years. And as the story opens he’s decided to take action: to leave Laura, start proceedings for divorce, and move in with Merrion.

It’s clear from the start that, despite the thirty-year age difference, Guy and Merrion truly love each other. She’s struggled for many years with being the ‘mistress’ and is thrilled that, at last, he’s decided to bring their relationship into the open. What neither of them are prepared for are the repercussions on Guy’s family… and particularly on Simon, who feels an immense pull of loyalty between his rather manipulative mother and his long-suffering wife Carrie.

Simon and Carrie have three teenage children, and they, too, are affected by their grandfather’s decision. But they’re going through traumas of their own, as teenagers do, and suffering most from their father’s abstraction, as he tries to please everyone and finds it’s impossible to do so…

From a plot point of view, not a great deal happens. There are many nicely intertwined subplots, but they’re supplementary rather than running throughout. The story is character-driven rather than by any action, and those who prefer thrillers or complex plots would probably find it slow-moving, perhaps dull. But I like novels that explore family relationships, and found it well-written and thought-provoking; in places it was quite intense.

I’m not sure that I ever really believed in the insecure and manipulative Laura; it was no surprise that Guy had found someone more loving and accepting. But I very much liked Carrie, and thought the teenagers were nicely done, and quite believable. Guy, too, is likeable and evidently burdened with responsibilities, not just in his job but for his family; something that’s surprisingly hard for Merrion to adjust to.

The first time I read it I wasn’t really expecting the ending; this time, I knew how it would be resolved and saw the indications along the way. It was really the only ending that worked, and one that might give pause for thought to anyone in - or considering - a similar situation.

Recommended if you like women’s fiction with a deeper theme than most. Still in print in the UK, and now available in Kindle form as well as paperback.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

No comments: