Mar 1, 2012

Review: Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

  • Paperback, 328 pages
  • Published March 1st 2011
  • Source: finished copy from publisher
  • My rating: 3/5
  • Summary: Rachel has always loved being at the centre of her large family. She has fiercely devoted herself to her three sons all their lives. They are, of course, devoted to her - she and Anthony, their father, hold the family together at their ramshackle house near the coast of Suffolk. But when Luke, her youngest, gets married, Rachel finds that control is slipping away. Other people seem to be becoming more important to her children than she is, and she can no longer rely on her role as undisputed matriarch. A power struggle develops which can only end in unhappiness; her three daughters-in-law want to do things their own way, and so, to her grief, do her sons .. 

Daughters in Law turned out to be less melodramatic and more insightful than I could have guessed from the summary. There's not much swerving with a story about a mother who considers all women on this world unworthy of her precious boys. It's either the mother or the daughter in law that's being obnoxious. In Joanna Trollope's book, no one is guilty and no one is totally innocent either. I loved how she accomplished to provide different perspectives on some issues by switching perspectives. I guess most of us have had these situations in our lives, being confronted with in-laws who seem to be sticking their noses where they shouldn't. It takes a tremendous amount of maturity (and patience, god, patience) to handle these situations. I experienced a pang or two of familiarity while reading it. You can't live your own life while making everyone else happy, and there's no taking sides. A mother wants the best for her kids, the kids have their own ideas of how they should live their lives, and more often than not, chaos ensues.

That said, I was terribly annoyed by the character of Rachel. She's biased and a control freak, worse than being simply a matriarchal figure. Another set of characters that made my blood pressure skyrocket were Petra and Ralph. Petra is like a doll, with everyone pampering around her, bordering on autistic whenever it's time for her to utter any wish or need. No wonder there's a crisis between her and Ralph since the two of them never seem to talk. Ralph conveniently walks out of the scene and Petra goes walking on the beach. I really didn't see why the two of them would be a good match or marriage material at all.

It's mostly due to the characters that I didn't like this book more. I found very little in them that made me feel sympathetic. Concurrently, many things about them made me angry. Otherwise, Trollope deals well with the subtleties between couples and in-laws.

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