City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

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City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Another brilliant story from Joanna Trollope: she perfectly captures the difficulties and contrdictions of being a woman in the workplace. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336/9h25m Date: February 2017
Publisher: Mantle
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1509823475

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It would be unkind and certainly unfair to say that it was Stacey Grant's mother who was the cause of Stacey losing her job: she might well have been the trigger but it was her manager, Jeff Dodds, who used her request to work flexibly as an excuse to make her redundant. There was a lot of support for Stacey - the staff were as stunned as she was, but in terms of the people she could rely on, there were just a few. Her mother was out of the equation : it was her dementia which started the problem and her husband Steve was wrapped up in the fact that he'd just been promoted to board level in his job. There were the girls: the four of them had met at University and Stacey, Melissa, Beth and Gaby had been firm friends ever since. And there was Bruno the dog.

There's a terrible chasm when something like this happens: Joanna Trollope captures it perfectly. Gone are the days packed with meetings, professional achievements are meaningless and in their place are empty days when it wouldn't even matter if you didn't get dressed. Thank heavens for the girls: it's a while before Stacey can even stand to talk to them, but they care about her. Only - they have problems of their own. Melissa is a single parent to fifteen-year-old Tom and he has rose-tinted spectacles about the family life of the father he's never really known that well before. Beth's partner, Claire, is dissatisfied with their life together and wants more: but what's the 'more' that she wants? Gaby's got a high-flying job as an investment banker in Canary Wharf, but her family life is getting chaotic.

When you pick up a Joanna Trollope novel you can rely on two things: it's going to be a brilliant story and you're going to have to set some time aside because once you start there is no way of leaving it until you have more time available. I empathised with Stacey straight away - something similar (although nowhere near as traumatic) happened to me at about the same age and Trollope captures the sensations perfectly. She understands too what it's like to be a woman in the workplace - the double standards, the accommodations which can be made for one person but not for another and the sheer unfairness of the way that family responsibilities inevitably fall on the working mother rather than the working father. There were occasions when I felt the pain physically.

The story is uplifting though, with an acknowledgement that private equity and banking are not the be-all and end-all of life. (I loved the names of Beth's two cats - 'Banker' and 'Bonus'.) Of course, the story would be nothing without the characters which populate it and every character in the book comes brilliantly to life. The four friends are very different personalities but the great pleasure in reading about them lies in the fact that not only can you warm to them - you can understand why, more than a quarter of a century after they met, they are all still such good friends, despite the occasional upset.

It's a while since I've read a Joanna Trollope - the reviewing gods have not been kind to me in that respect - but as soon as I started reading this book I realised just what I'd been missing. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Different continent, different style, but Joanna Trollope always puts me in mind of Anne Tyler. Joanna Trollope is the fifth-generation niece of Anthony Trollope.

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