Joanna Trollope has a knack for writing about family and relationships that have difficulties or have come unstuck. City of Friends is based on four women who met at university – Beth, Melissa, Gaby and Stacey. They are in their late forties and all in successful high-powered jobs, until Stacey is made redundant.
The women are all shown with their similarities in some areas and differences in others. Melissa is a single mum with fourteen-year-old son Tom. Beth was in a relationship with Claire, who finds she cannot live with her anymore. Gaby is married with children and Stacy married without. The one thing they have in common is their passion for their careers.
Their easy friendship is tested when they find that information has been withheld by some, and when this comes out, there are fractures in their relationships.
Trollope’s has great insight into the psyches of women especially, and the issues they deal with. Beth and Claire renovated their house while the others watched with ‘the occasionally exasperated anxiety of those monitoring the haphazard recovery of an addict’. Gaby and Melissa worry about the motherhood/work balance.
Dementia and the need for care are addressed through Stacey’s mother, who moves in with her and Stan, despite not wanting to be a nuisance. Stacey becomes ‘the prisoner of a role and a routine that was, she couldn’t help thinking, seldom required by society of a man’ and ‘could only battle against her resentment, fight against feelings of injustice and anger, and, most days, worn by the strain and the shame and the misery, lose’.
This is Trollope’s usual balance of a few issues wrapped deftly in an easy to read novel. There are reading group questions at the back of the book making it a perfect book for a book club, or for someone just looking for a good read.