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I have always enjoyed Joanna Trollope's books and so I made a start on this one not that long ago expecting to really enjoy it. I did, but I felt that it wasn't at as up to scratch as some of her other books so I thought giving my opinion would be good!
Joanna Trollope has written an impressive amount of books - she has 20 books out under her own name and 67 books written under the name of Caroline Harvey. She is an English author who has been writing for over 30 years. She is also one of the judges for the Melissa Nathan award and is also going to be judging for the Sunday Times short story award in 2012. She is also currently writing for a new series of 'Sense and sensibility' so overall she is a very active writer and involved with a lot of book related schemes and awards.
Nathalie and David are both adopted by the same adoptive parents making them brother and sister. However, they both have different birth parents and when one day Nathalie suddenly realises that she has a deep need to trace her birth mother; she insists that David make the same journey and try to find his birth mother too. At first David resists, stating is he happier not knowing and that this journey will hurt their adoptive parents too much. However, with also some persuasion from his wife, David soon finds himself embarking on the same journey as Nathalie.
The main characters are Nathalie and David and the book is written from both of their perspectives as well as both their partners, Steve and Marnie. I did like that you got to read about the feelings and thoughts from everyone individually however, I think I found it quite difficult to enjoy the book simply because I didn't like many of the characters!
Nathalie seemed quite pushy of David and not very loving towards her husband Steve and generally didn't seem a very compassionate person at all. David was very boring in my eyes and didn't really focus on his family enough so generally speaking I think I wasn't really very caring towards what actually happened to them.
Then there was Steve, the husband of Nathalie and also Marnie, the wife of David. I also didn't really care for these much simply because Steve was seemingly only caring about himself and Marnie because she came across as a bit odd and controlling towards David.
I can't deny that the characters were well developed because in all honesty, to provoke those feelings about fictional people means they were well written: it was more about not liking them that stopped me enjoying the book as much!
I bought this book in Tesco in the section where they reduce the cost of the older books and so managed to buy it for just £3. There was an offer of three books for £5 but, I couldn't find another two at the time and I really wanted this so I paid the £3 for the one. I think this is very good value for any brand new book and it is worth keeping your eye out in this section for any others.
It is hard to say whether I did enjoy it or not; on one hand I wanted to find out what happened, but on the other, I wasn't really that bothered. I am glad I managed to buy it for only £3 and didn't end up paying the full RRP of £7.99 as then I think I would have been disappointed.
It wasn't that the story wasn't interesting as nearly every book I have read of Joanna Trollope's has had an interesting and poignant storyline, but, I just didn't feel like I enjoyed it as much simply because I wasn't very much caring about what happened to these people and so for me it lost its touch somewhat.
Overall I will only be giving the book a three star rating which is a shame as the majority of other books by this author have received a much higher rating from me. As I say, it is not that the story wasn't interesting and I think it could have been miles better had I actually liked the main characters as then I would have been more interested in finding out what happened to them; as it was, I really just wanted to finish it as I don't like dropping books once I have started them.
This is a story which shows a little insight in how two children were adopted by a couple who were not able to have any children of their own. So they adopted David and Nathalie, both had different birth mothers.
As you read into the book one will find on the surface a normal family and it tells us that Nathalie is living with her partner Steve and unmarried and has a daughter who's name Polly.
Her brother is David and is married to Marnie and has three children, he is very happy and runs his own business as a Landscape Gardener.
The everything seems to change for them all when Polly had to have surgery on her ear. Nathalie started to question about things concerning her Birth Mother and has her daughter inherited the problem concerning her ear. Then she asked herself about whether she minded being adopted.
So she went to tell David her brother about her feelings and that she wanted to find her birth mother.They were very close with each other which often left their spouses out but this was not done on purpose its just that they had this very special bond with one another but it caused jealousy with David's wife Marnie.
Nathalie was interviewed by a young researcher when during this interview it did start her questioning things. Steve had aranged this interview but had no idea that this would cause so much upset amongst the families concerned.
After that interview she then went to her brother to encourage him to also search for his birth mother as well. Nathalie found a lady who would do this for them.
As one reads into the book you find how Nathalie finds her natural mother and discovers what type of person she was and this was the same for David. How each of them coped and also how their families coped. It shows how the emotions of their Mum and Dad who adopted them what they felt about their children discovering the whereabouts of their natural mothers and what thay actual means to them now.So it explores there individual feelings and how they carried on as a family once these things have been brought up into the open.
So it is a story based on a domestic drama and Joanna Trollope really does draw you in. I had not read any of her books before so I was pleasantly surprised that she captivated me while I was reading this book.
David and Nathalie and are the children of Lynne and Ralph. You wouldn't find a closer brother and sister anywhere except that they're not really siblings. This is because Lynne and Ralph adopted them. This fact was never a secret, and all their lives both David and Nathalie believed that it made no difference to them. They've grown up healthy, loved and become well-adjusted adults and are both in good relationships happily married and with children of their own. But when Nathalie is interviewed about how being adopted effected her life, although initially she denies that it made any difference to her, she suddenly discovers a need to find her birth parents, and insists that David do the same. This takes them down a road that neither of them were ever prepared to travel, and yet, are both, inexplicably drawn towards. This is the story of "Brother and Sister" by Joanna Trollope.
From that plot summary, you can easily see that this book centers on difficult relationships, which is a topic Joanna Trollope is no stranger to. All of her novels seem to revolve around families or couples that have one type of problem or another. As such, she seems to have an excellent handle on these types of situations and finds a way to portray them in a very natural fashion. What I mean by that is she brings up emotions and reactions that are totally in line with human nature, and puts her characters through true psychological workouts. What's more, she does this with such simplicity of plot that we can easily be fooled into believing that she is recounting a true story. This is because Trollope has the innate ability to write truly believable characters, and use these characters to drive her story (which, if you've read any other book reviews of mine, you'll know that I prefer character-driven to plot-driven novels). What's more, Trollope knows how to make her characters develop and grow within her stories something that is essential for a good climax and conclusion. Plus, although Trollope knows how to make her characters act like we would expect them to act if they were real persons, she also knows how to keep them from being predictable as well which is yet another fine line she travels.
In this story, Trollope takes Nathalie as her main protagonist, and then brings her brother David in to act as a sort of back-up protagonist. Their interaction and closeness makes the reader wonder if they might have become lovers, had these two not grown up as brother and sister. This becomes more evident as we see some resentment coming from their respective spouses because of the increased contact between David and Nathalie over the possibility of meeting their birth parents. This is a very normal reaction of any husband or wife sees their spouse suddenly having far more contact with someone they are very close to already. Remember that despite their sibling status, David and Nathalie aren't actually biologically brother and sister, the knowledge of which exasperates those spousal feelings.
We also see two people who, despite their closeness, are highly different personalities, and almost come to odds with each other due to their strong individuality. Trollope shows this in the resistance that David shows in wanting to contact his birth parents, after Nathalie has made the decision that they both should do it. Furthermore, we see that while we expect both David and Nathalie to have some kind of change in their relationship between themselves, they also react differently towards their own families but each in their own way. Trollope also includes some background into their childhoods by allowing their adoptive parents into the mix, who express both their own feelings towards this investigation, as well as their thoughts regarding how they saw these two as children.
What I found particularly interesting with this book was that there is no human or physical antagonist here. In fact, Trollope seems instead, to use the situation as an antagonist it is the idea of being able to find ones birth parents that becomes the catalyst for all the conflict and resolution in this book. While personal growth and internal conflict as antagonist isn't completely innovative for a novel, it is probably the type of antagonist that is most difficult to portray. However, Trollope has such an excellent understanding of human nature and behaviour that she shines using this form. Moreover, she doesn't use any tricks like diaries or letters to help the reader understand what is in the characters heads, nor does she depend on long tirades into their internal thoughts or speeches to their audience. Instead, she uses pure dialogue and action to show us what these two are going through. Note that I said "show" and not "tell" yes, Trollope is actually showing us what is going on, not telling us. That is usually the first rule of writing fiction "show, don't tell" and Trollope is a master at this.
I'm sorry that this review doesn't make this novel sound as interesting as I found it to be, but I'm not sure how to make it sound better. What Joanna Trollope gives us is a parallel study in human nature, but she does so with such simple artistry that you'll find yourself compelled to read this straight through. Her characters are vivid and alive, while acting as we would totally expect them to act, while still surprising the reader with how they go about dealing with their conflicts and problems. Her magic here is in making us believe that these people are so real, we could pick them out of a crowd. In sum, Trollope has given us yet another marvelous piece of fiction that I wholeheartedly recommend and will give it a full five stars out of five.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © March 2007
Brother & Sister is published by Black Swan Books, genre Modern fiction
Publication Date: 01/02/2005, 368 pages, ISBN: 0552771732, RRP £6.99 Paperback via Transworld Books. This book is also available on Amazon.co.uk for the same price, or Amazon's marketplace from 1p.
Joanna Trollope has her own web page www.joannatrollope.com where you can find information about this novel as well as all her other works and her life.
Nathalie and David have been good and dutiful children to their parents. Now that they are both settled, with partners and children of their own, they are still close. Good friends. Brother and sister. Except that they aren't - brother and sister, that is. Each of them had been adopted when their loving parents, Lynne and Ralph, found that they couldn't have children. And Nathalie and David have always sworn to each other, and to their families, that it didn't matter. But it did matter, of course, and when Nathalie discovers a deep need to trace her birth parents, she insists that David makes the same journey. She also discovers that sometimes the answers are harder than the questions.