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Marrying the Mistress - Joanna Trollope

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4 Reviews

Author: Joanna Trollope / Genre: Fiction

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    4 Reviews
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      11.10.2008 03:09
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      Story of how a marriagebreakup affects a family

      The cast:
      Laura and Guy Stockbrook - Guy is leaving Laura
      Their children - Alan and Simon Stockbrook
      Simon married Carrie - 3 kids Jack, Emma and Rachel l
      Guy 's mistress is Merrion Palmer
      Her mum is Gwen Palmer

      I bought this book from a charity shop or jumble sale as part of my pile to take to South America, I always look for normal clear print and not too deep, as in intellectual, for a book to read on the plane. This was my choice for the journey from Amsterdam to Lima.

      The story is, pretty obviously from the title, one about a man leaving his wife to marry his considerably younger mistress. Ms Trollope, unlike many authors, does not focus her story on the passionate love of the relationship between the older man and his mistress, she focuses instead on the relationships that are affected by the breakup of the marriage and those connected to the younger mistress. The various chapters flashback to the original marriage of Guy Stockbrook, the older man and also the Merrion's childhood and her relationship with her mother so that the reader is gradually introduced to the characters and also gains some background into their lives and some understanding about why the breakdown in the marriage takes place and why Merrion might have become attracted to someone old enough to be her father.

      Guy is a judge and is married to Laura who has gradually become more and more dependent upon Guy and her sons, Alan and Simon to provide her support and her whole 'raison d'etre really. Laura is the sort of mother-in -law you dread, who rings up her son Simon ( married to Carrie, an independent working mum with 3 teenage children - Jack, Rachel and Emma who cause their challenges by simply being teenagers with all the usual hassles) and virtually demands that he comes over to sort out some problem for her. The emotional blackmail of tears on the phone and talk of all the sacrifices she made for her family are her main weapons. She also throws in inability to cope with having to move out of the family home and leaving the garden which she has created over the years - ostensibly for the family but in reality it is her hobby as no-one else wa really that interested.

      Simon's family are pulled apart because Simon is 'forced' to act as his mother's lawyer in the divorce. Laura has never liked Carrie and makes this obvious - probably because Caries is a capable, working mother but also because she married Simon who is Laura's favourite son. Simon is the favoured one because he falls for the pressure of Laura's neediness whereas Alan is more down to earth and offers emotional sympathy with a balance of sensible practical advice which his mother doesn't like.

      As the plot develops Simon's family becomes more stressed and the children's problems begin escalate as Simon spends more and more time sorting his mother's demands and less time at home. He is also being pulled in 3 directions, his mother's neediness , his family's time and support and guilt about not being able to talk to his father because he is being forced to act legally for his mother.

      Alan, the sensible son gets on well with Carrie so is able to act as a bridge between the various elements of the family . Guy has obviously been a good grandfather over the years and has also got on with Carrie. They are both able to see why Guy might have been attracted to someone else as Laura has not been a real partner in his life over the years. They are not condoning his actions but merely able to see how/why it happened and because it has happened it needs to be dealt with and move one.

      Alan's life is not all it seems either and during the story he begins a relationship which comes with its own interest to the rest of the family. Jack, the son of Simon also falls in love in the middle of all this drama and has to deal with all the emotions of his first teenage love followed by rejection without the support of his parents who are involved in the drama of his grandparents emotionally messy divorce.

      We also follow the story of Merrion whose father died at a very young age and her mother who married again but was let down by the second marriage. The relationship between Merrion and her mother is clouded by her mother, Gwen's attitude to men. She has been let down twice and so decided to avoid emotional relationships with them and concentrate on bringing up her daughter. Unfortunately over the years mother and daughter drift apart in their interests and attitudes to life. We are lead to believe that Merrion's attraction to Guy is probably based on the fact that she has built her dead father up to be a bit of a hero and so guy provides the comforting father figure she has looked for all her life.

      Gwen, naturally is not best pleased when she hears that guy and Merrion are planning i to get married and she rushes up to London to stick her 'two penneth' in. This reaction is of course made more unpalatable to Merrion as she does not have a good relationship with her mother anyway.

      All in all it is a story about families and relationships beyond the simple 'falling in love'. Ms Trollope handles the characters sensitively throughout. Interestingly we are taken on a bit of an emotional roller coaster as we should fell sympathy for Laura, as she is the 'wronged' wife but life is not black and white and so each character has a part to play in the drama and we empathise at different times for each of them as they struggle to come to terms with their situation.

      In summary this book was an easy read for the plane with enough character interest and food for thought to keep me reading. It is not a blockbuster or Booker prize winner but is was entertaining and thought provoking and written in an easy style. I would recommend it for a beach read or travel read but probably more of a 'chick lit' book really. May be of particular interest to those who have been through or know someone who has been through a similar marriage breakdown as it does cover a range of emotional involvement, showing how a marriage breakdown affects more than the two people immediately involved .

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        09.08.2004 23:01
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        After forty years of marriage, Guy Stockdale, a 62 year judge, has had enough. Unbeknown to his wife Laura and their family, he has been conducting an extra marital affair for the past seven years. Living a lie and keeping up the false pretences has finally taken its toll and he has made the decision to leave his wife and make his relationship with his mistress more permanent.

        He didn?t mean to fall in love with Merrion, who happens to be 30 years younger than him. He wasn?t on the lookout for ?a bit of fluff?....it was just the result of a chance meeting on a train. And now, all these years later, they have both become tired of sneaking around. The time has come to drop the bombshell....

        To a lot of people, their parents marriage is seemingly the most stable and secure thing in their lives. Therefore an occurrence like this would no doubt be unimaginable and certainly a huge shock. ?Marrying the Mistress? revolves around an English family and is about the effects that the break up of a marriage has on the different generations within that family. In this particular novel, everyone is understandably shocked and upset but individual reactions, thoughts and emotions are detailed, offering an interesting insight into the complexities of human behaviour.

        As the characters start to come to terms with the news, their varying personalities begin to show. There is no right or wrong way of coping with this kind of situation. They each have different opinions about the split and choose to deal with it in their own individual ways.

        Guy has always appeared to be the model husband and father to two sons. Alan, the youngest of his sons, has a very relaxed temperament and wisely decides to be fairly impartial, not getting too involved. He remains quietly supportive without getting emotional.

        Simon on the other hand has an immense feelin
        g of betrayal and finds himself being pulled in several conflicting directions. His initial reaction is to point the finger of blame towards his father but then he becomes unsure as to which parent he should be standing by, whilst at the same time being torn between the demands of his career and his own family. He feels a bond of obligation towards his mother which makes him very vulnerable and his loyalties and priorities are questioned.

        His wife, Carrie, has quite a forthright attitude about matters. She begins to feel sorely neglected and pushed into second place as Laura becomes more and more demanding and dependent on Simon. She?s left to deal with the everyday issues that are facing their three teenage children, aswell as coping with the unsettled anxieties that surround them regarding the divorce of their grandparents.

        ?Marrying the Mistress? deals with an issue that is becoming much more common in society but it?s been given a twist. Man has affair and leaves wife for mistress....this would normally result in sympathy being directed at the poor, deserted wife. Surely any bloke who could do that to his missus is a horrible, heartless man and as for his mistress, well she must be a complete harlot and a home wrecker, to say the least!

        The novel has been written from a different perspective though with the intention of reversing peoples common perceptions. It?s a fresh look at an old dilemma that goes beyond the stereotypical scenario. It?s not necessarily true that the man is guilty of ?just looking for sex? and the fact that the wife is the victim is not always the case.

        Guy is actually portrayed as being a really nice man....caring and thoughtful towards the people who matter the most to him but apparently lacking a certain amount of self-esteem. The decision to leave his wife was not taken lightly due to realising the hurt that it would cause, and only ar
        rived at after much careful consideration.

        His new girlfriend, Merrion, comes across as being intelligent and successful, aswell as attractive. She is basically a very likeable woman. As much as you want to hate her, you just can?t! The character of Merrion is particularly well drawn. It briefly goes back to her troubled youth and I think this results in the reader having an understanding as to why this young woman would be attracted to a man of twice her age.

        As I was reading this book I felt that it would have been beneficial to include some detail as to why Guy was driven to start the affair in the first place but as Laura?s character developed, it became more understandable. When she finds out about the affair she is completely distraught about the whole situation, as any wife would be. Not having had an inkling as to what was going on behind her back, she is stunned to find out that her husband is leaving her for another woman.

        An instant reaction is to feel sorry for Laura as she appears to be quite a weak character who has survived off her husband for all these years. Due to her own choices she has been a stay-at-home mum and home maker, taking the utmost pride in her home and garden. Deep down though, she has always suffered from loneliness and a yearning to go back to work.

        As the story progresses you realise that she is actually very strong willed to the point of being manipulative, but in a very subtle way. The reader puts two and two together and comes to the assumption that she has been like that with Guy throughout their marriage as the resentment has grown. You get the impression that it eventually drove him to find comfort in the arms of another woman.

        I didn?t have any sympathy for Laura although at first, I thought that it was perhaps her desperation that was causing her to act in this way. I soon
        came to the conclusion that it is a normal trait which is emphasized due to her current state of mind. She is without doubt the least likeable character in the story.

        In the end...well, that would be telling. You?ll just have to find out for yourself!

        Regarding the ending, if I?m honest I would say that I was hoping for much more. It didn?t finish in the way in which I expected and it seemed to conclude rather suddenly, although it did give a nice, pleasant feeling of settled emotions.

        Throughout the book the current atmosphere is always very apparent. You can almost feel the strain, tension and uncertainties when Simon goes to visit his mum for the first time after finding out about the affair. And likewise during moments when the family are introduced to Merrion....the sense of awkwardness and embarrassment is excellently conveyed.

        All elements of the book are really descriptive and the attention to detail is fabulous. In each ?scene? the reader is almost given a complete picture and it?s these simple details that bring the story to life and make it such an enjoyable read....the ticking of a clock, the family dogs barking in the background, the rattle of a teacup on it?s saucer....all captured perfectly.

        The characterisation and observations are terrific giving the characters a sense of dimension and reality. The simple, sometimes humourous dialogue also helps to achieve a realistic quality. Trollope somehow manages to get into the heads of each of her characters so you can understand exactly how each of them feels and why they act the way they do. She also has an ability to create characters that you can really associate with, even if you don?t appear to have anything in common with them!

        I therefore think that a lot of people will be able to relate to this novel in some way. Obviously those who have had similar experience
        s but even those who haven?t. I have never been through anything like it. I?ve never had an affair....my hubby has never had an affair (that I know of!)...I?ve never been ?the other woman? or ?bit on the side?....my parents are still happily married....my grandparents were together ?til death do us part?. Yet I still felt that I could indirectly associate with some of the characters, possibly in an emotional sense....kind of like ?I can imagine how you feel and I think I?d react like that too?.

        It?s not just the distinctive character mannerisms, interaction and realistic conversation that give the book energy. Architectural description also sets the scene in a way which helps you picture the surroundings to the extent of imagining that you are actually there. Even though I have never seen them (obviously) I can tell from the vivid description that the gardens of the Stockdale family home are beautifully maintained and I can envisage what the homes of the various characters look like!

        Overall, I think this is a great book, as if you hadn?t guessed! It?s a modern tale which studies complex family relationships and tackles delicate circumstances in a tactful and sympathetic manner. The subject matter could have resulted in quite a harsh, heavy going storyline but it has been lightened somewhat by Trollope?s chosen approach. A pleasant read!




        Published by: Bloomsbury (2000) and Black Swan (2001)

        Cover price: £6.99 (available for £3.44 on Amazon)

        ISBN: 0552998729

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          30.08.2001 21:56
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          I brought Marrying The Mistress by Joanna Trollope,in paper back from Tesco's for the bargin price of £3.84, the book retails normanly at £6.99. This book centres around the Stockdales and how they as a family deal with a pending divorce. Guy Stockdale has beem married to his wife Laura for 40 years, and for the last 7 years of his marriage has been with another woman, Merrion.There is a vast age gap between them but Guy and Merrion have fallen in love and he makes up his mind to leave his wife.They have 2 grown up sons together, and their parting deeply affects their son Simon and his family. Laura the estranged wife has an emotional hold over Simon, which causes Simon and his immediate family a lot of heartache, as Simon has to struggle finding where his loyaltys should lay. This book tells wonderfully of the complicated relationships in a family,Joanna Trollope has written it with a real sense of compassion, and all the characters play a profound part in the story. This book does not have the ending you would probably like to see, but you will understand why. This is Joanna Trollope at her best and If you have the chance to read this book, I urge you to as you will be captivated throughout.

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            02.08.2001 03:03
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            I read this book on holiday as I was bored and my girlfriend had just finished with it. Marrying The Mistress deals with an issue that must be becoming more featured in society and is a pleasant read that maintains interest without any stunning moments that capture the imagination. Good observation is made of modern family life enabling the reader to become very interested in various elements of how the family deals with this crisis. Without trying to be sexist, this is a book for the ladies. :) Its almost like reading an extended edition of a soap opera, it deals with proper issues with a little bit of good humour thrown in, and to be fair it made me laugh out loud in places. A fairly pleasant read, i'd recommend this book as one to borrow rather than buy

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          • Product Details

            A judge and his mistress face trouble when news of their affair gets out.