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Review of 'The Other Family', a novel by Joanna Trollope
I am reviewing the paperback version of this novel, published by Black Swan, 446 pages, ISBN 9780532775434, cover price £7.99, genre: Modern fiction.
My book was obtained, as many of my books are, from a local book swapping group that a friend of mine founded. We get together every few months to swap the books we no longer require, have a coffee and chat and have a donation pot where we collect money which is donated to a local charity. It's an excellent way to not only obtain new reading material but to exchange views and opinions about the books on offer and raise money for a good cause.
This book is currently available from amazon. The paperback costs £5.59 new, from 0.01p used, a Kindle version is offered at £5.22 and an audiobook from £8.96.
Chrissie has been with Richie Rossiter, a successful musician for 23 years. They have three daughters, Dilly, Tamsin and Amy and the family lives in London.
Chrissie is Richie's agent and although his style of music is somewhat dated, he still has a large following of fans and his music sells well. He began his musical career in the working men's clubs and pubs in the North East of England and moved to London with Chrissie when his talent was discovered.
The story opens with the family gathered at the hospital. Richie has passed away suddenly and the family are in total shock. Chrissie and her daughter return home and over the next few days try to make sense of the sudden changes in their family situation. Chrissie descends into a deep depression, eldest daughter; Tamsin spends most of her time when she is not at work with her boyfriend Robbie. Middle daughter, Dilly as always, does her own thing and squabbles with everyone, Amy the youngest, tries to bring a sense of normality to the family and fails.
Formalities have to be observed and there are many people to be informed of the sad death, not least Richie's first family, his wife Margaret and son, Scott. Richie had never divorced Margaret, a situation that had caused tension between himself and Chrissie, even though there was virtually no contact between Richie and his other family, Chrissie always felt as though there was an underlying element of threat from the Newcastle family and does not wish to tell them the news.
Amy takes matters into her own hands and informs Margaret Roissiter of her husband's death. Margaret tells Scott and the pair decide that they wish to attend the funeral. Chrissie is furious to discover Amy's actions but as the girl points out they would have discovered the news from the press anyway.
Scott rings back to find out the funeral arrangements on the only number he has, Amy's mobile and this leads to a phone based relationship between the half siblings.
Prior to the funeral, Chrissie and her daughters attend the family solicitor to make arrangements. Chrissie and Richie had made wills some years previously, however she is in for a huge shock when she discovers that Richie had changed his will without telling her.
The girls are shocked to find that their parents were not married and all four are devastated to learn that Richie has left to his wife and son, his very valuable Steinway piano and his musical estate up to 1985, the year he had left Margaret and Scott. The rights to the songs Richie had recorded and written are the most valuable asset and Chrissie is horrified. She and the girls still have the bulk of Richie's estate, the house and contents, his bank accounts and so on, but as the family's only source income was the royalties of his numerous songs, they now have to face their income being drastically reduced.
Chrissie feels that Richie has betrayed her and their daughters and that their life together had been a sham. The funeral is yet to take place, this coupled with Margaret and Scott Rossiter wishing to attend the service and the removal of the piano to Newcastle-upon-Tyne begin to dominate Chrissie's life. Her stress is added to by the realisation that she is not going to be able to afford to remain in her family home and the fact that her youngest child is hell-bent on fraternising with Richie's first family.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
This is a real page turner of a novel, it is very well written and Ms Trollope has drawn a remarkably realistic cast of characters. The storyline of a second family at loggerheads with the first family is not a new one, but this novel puts a new and different spin on a tried and trusted idea.
I found the characters to be believable, although not altogether likeable. I felt the spoiled and self-centred Dilly should have been taken in hand years before he father's death. To allow someone to behave as she did for 20 years and then suddenly expect them to change their ways is unrealistic and it is no surprise that Dilly was unable to adapt. I liked the feisty and self-sufficient Amy; she showed a real strength of personality and had the guts to see her actions through because she felt they were the right thing to do.
Obviously, the death of a partner is not a happy event for anyone and the events that unfolded following the death of Richie Rossiter added to the stress and uncertainty the family faced. Chrissie seemed to crumble once she realised how Richie had left things and she went through a whirlwind of emotional turmoil, ranging from feeling threatened, feeling her life with Richie had counted for nothing and dismay when she realised that she was going to have to seek employment. Although she was well thought of in the world they have moved in, she had only ever managed Richie's musical career and was out of touch.
I consider this to be a very good novel, the dialogue is crisply delivered and the author has covered some fairly sensitive issues within the storyline well. I felt this was a thought provoking book and it is one I would definitely re-read and have no hesitation in recommending it to others who enjoy a modern novel with a family saga theme.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 April 2013
**UPDATE** I recently re-read this novel and have to say it was just as good second time around!
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.
Another book that I bought ages ago and then saved to take with me on holiday was this one. Again it was a book by one of my favourite authors so I was more than happy to risk taking it away with me as I knew I would enjoy it and I definitely did so was glad I saved it until then!
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 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.
Chrissie was with Richie for 23yrs and they had three daughters together. They had a good life together living in Highgate and are not short of money. However Chrissie always wondered if Richie really loved her as much as he said as he had never actually gotten around to divorcing his first wife Margaret, with who he had a son with. Now that Richie has passed away it is time for the families to face each other as he may have been with Chrissie for 23yrs but, as they were not married it starts to cause problems and sorting out finances, valuables and feelings is not so easy when there is another family to consider.
In a way this was such a strange book as I didn't particularly like either of the two main women who Richie's life centred around. Both Chrissie and Margaret are strong willed women, who actually both work in the same industry and under any other circumstances probably would have been friends. I felt they were both very dismissive of each other and not willing to show each other respect. I know given the circumstances, I guess it would be hard but, I also felt that they should have both been aware that at the end of the day, Richie had been involved with both of them at some point of his life and that made them his history of his life, especially as he had children to both women.
Generally, the three girls came across as very spoilt children who are used to the trappings of a good life however, I felt that one of the girls, Amy, came across as a bit more understanding of the other family and seemed to almost embrace the fact that her dad had another life before them and wanted to do the right thing by speaking to her half-brother and trying to make things ok.
I guess it is hard for an author to take the risk and make characters into people who the reader may not like very much as a lot of readers will generally find it difficult to enjoy a book when the main characters are all people who they do not like. However, I feel that she got the balance just right and even though I wasn't particularly drawn to any of them as likable people, it still worked within the storyline so overall I think she did a good job with the characters.
I bought my book in Tesco as part of their on-going book deal. When I bought the book it was two for £8 making it £4 per book and I feel this is excellent value for a brand new book. If you currently wanted to buy a brand new copy, it retails at an RRP of £7.99 so I did get this for a very good price and there are still many places you can get it for around the £4 mark.
I have enjoyed Joanna Trollope's books before and this one was no exception. Ok, so it wasn't the best one of her books but, it was still very enjoyable and I think this was because she always deals with subjects that are emotional and have a lot of depth to them and then manages to create characters that work well within the storylines. I think she handled the matter of death and loved ones well and even though it is not a happy thing to read about it was still a good read that is grown up and written in a mature way. I do recommend this book and am looking forward to reading her latest book too.