The Best of Friends

The Best of Friends

4.0 2
by Joanna Trollope
     
 

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Gina and Laurence have been the best of friends since childhood, but they've never been in love. For that, they chose others: Gina married Fergus, who gave her a daughter and a life of elegance and wealth, and Laurence wed Hillary, who helped him build a cozy, successful hotel and counts Gina among her dearest friends as well. But when one of these marriages ends… See more details below

Overview

Gina and Laurence have been the best of friends since childhood, but they've never been in love. For that, they chose others: Gina married Fergus, who gave her a daughter and a life of elegance and wealth, and Laurence wed Hillary, who helped him build a cozy, successful hotel and counts Gina among her dearest friends as well. But when one of these marriages ends, the result is a shift that sends tremors through three generations and two families—as friends become lovers, lovers become enemies, enemies become allies, and another marriage hangs in the balance.

Author Biography: Joanna Trollope is a member of the same family as novelist Anthony Trollope.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Whittingbourne is one of those charming English towns where families live happily ever after. Gina and Fergus, Hillary and Laurance have grown up, married, and raised their children in the warmth of amiable friendship. But one day it all unravels as Fergus calmly leaves Gina to share his life with a young man in London, and Laurance nearly chucks it all to move to France with Gina in the heat of passion. Their children are devastated and beset with emerging passions of their own. Teenage Sophy, angry with her father, Fergus, for disrupting her life, is nonetheless drawn to him as a refuge from her mother's affair. But Fergus is not prepared for Sophy to share his new life. Sophy is also scared she might be pregnant after a furtive encounter with young George. What keeps the predictable plot from dissolving into just another British suburban soap is Trollope's (A Spanish Lover, LJ 12/96) remarkable talent for character development. Entertaining, engaging, and literate, this is highly recommended.
--Susan Clifford
Good Housekeeping
...[C]aptures the poignant rituals of family attachment and detachment with delicious wryness and large doses of empathy.
Jonathan Yardley
Remarkable... her characters are at once vexing and endearing, which is to say fully human.
The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
From the British writer who specializes in domestic tales with an edge (A Spanish Lover, 1997, etc.), a wonderfully calibrated story of an old high-school friendship that in middle age turns suddenly treacherous and destructive.

Trollope is one of those rare writers who creates fully human characters living in recognizable worlds doing regular jobs and suffering all the bitter disappointments that flesh is heir to. Gina, whose mother Vi, a character with her own fierce passions, was abandoned by the American soldier who got her pregnant, became friends with Laurence in high school in the small English town where they both lived. And even after she marries Fergus, and after Laurence marries Hilary, they remain splendidly close. Gina's teenaged daughter Sophy and Laurence's three sons are also good friends. And so when Fergus moves out of the beautiful home he and Gina have created, announcing that their marriage is over, he sets in motion events that almost destroy not only his own family but Laurence's as well. A distraught Gina turns to Laurence for consolation, and Laurence, who has been feeling overwhelmed by work and family, he runs a hotel and restaurant—ardently responds. Divorces are planned. An anxious Vi, whose dear friend Dan dies in the midst of it all, watches from the side. Sophy runs off to Fergus, who, though not gay, is living with a man who loves him; and Sophy quickly realizes that life with Dad is no solution either. Laurence's boys are equally upset, but, when Hilary decides to fight for Laurence, good sense and solid affections prevail, albeit not without compromise and unexpected change.

A wise and sympathetic take on the strains and strengthsthat friendship provokes, by a writer who seldom strikes a wrong note. A moving, convincing, satisfying novel.

From the Publisher
“Thoughtful, seamless.” —Washington Post Book World

“Trollope tenderly explores the clash between extramarital passion and the bonds of family love…delicious wryness and large doses of empathy.” —Good Housekeeping

“It is both a delectably sweet and intensely satisfying undertaking to be swept right along with these carefully crafted characters.” —Booklist

“Can a man and woman be friends—best friends? That age-old (but very contemporary) question is the point on which Joanna Trollope’s new novel turns…Trollope’s prose is skillful, and it’s impossible not to be swept along by her story.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670879731
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
06/13/1998
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE BEST OF FRIENDS
by Joanna Trollope

 

INTRODUCTION

"The traditional novel is our lives. It doesn't matter whether it is the eighteenth century or the twenty-first century-people continue to want the same things out of life. Our social mores may change, our feelings about various aspects of human nature may change, we may eat different food or wear different clothes, but we are still looking for the bluebird of happiness." —Joanna Trollope

Gina and Laurence have been the best of friends since childhood—but they've never been in love. For marriage, they chose others: Fergus, who gave Gina a lovely daughter and a life of elegance and wealth; and Hilary, who helped Laurence build a cozy, successful hotel, and who counts Gina as one of her dearest friends as well. But when one of these marriages ends, the result is a shift that sends tremors through three generations and two families—as friends become lovers, lovers become enemies, enemies become allies... and another marriage hangs in the balance. Joanna Trollope is the sort of author who "makes her readers want to drop everything in order to keep on reading" (Publishers Weekly)—and The Best of Friends proves her consummate skill once again.

  ABOUT JOANNA TROLLOPE

Joanna Trollope is a descendant of Anthony Trollope and a #1 bestselling author in England. Writing as Caroline Harvey, she is the author of Legacy of Love and The Brass Dolphin. Writing under her own name, her contemporary novels include Next of Kin, Marrying the Mistress, and Other People's Children. Her earlier books, The Choir and The Rector's Wife, were both adapted for Masterpiece Theatre.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. A reviewer for the Chicago Tribune described Vi as "the novel's moral compass." Do you agree with this assessment? Vi is extremely critical of Gina, saying to her, "Love! What do you know about love, except to love yourself, I'd like to know?" and "You let this quarreling go on and on and on and you let it all go. You had all those things... and you didn't have to struggle for them, you didn't have to be lonely, and take all the decisions, did you, day after day, year after year." Why is Vi so critical of Gina? Is this criticism justified? How would you characterize their relationship? What about Vi's relationship with Sophia?
     
  2. Each character changes as the novel progresses. This is due in part to the breakup of Gina and Fergus's marriage and Laurence and Gina's affair. What other events affected the characters? Did some characters change more than others? Did you empathize with one character in particular?
     
  3. Were you satisfied with the development of the various relationships between the main characters? Did any of the relationships need to be stronger or to reveal more?
     
  4. Fergus blamed Gina for the breakup of their marriage, and in several instances Vi also implies that it is Gina's fault. And after Fergus leaves her, Gina too blames herself. Is this a fair blame to place solely on Gina? Is she to blame for the near-breakup of Laurence and Hilary's marriage?
     
  5. The children in the novel are faced with many difficult issues. Did you find Sophy, George, Adam, and Gus to be realistic portrayals of adolescents? How about their reactions to the events with which they were faced? The novel begins and ends from Sophy's perspective. How important a character is Sophy and how would you describe her?
     
  6. The novel is titled The Best of Friends, and Laurence and Gina's long friendship provides the basis of the story. At one point Gina says to Laurence, "When I'm desperate, when I don't know where to turn, I come to you. Don't I? Because we go a long way back, because I trust you. I suppose it's an instinct to come to you." Laurence, in turn, thinks to himself about Gina, "He felt all those facts that he knew, and all those things he could observe, cohere in his heart most powerfully and mingle with his relief at her appreciation of him and the sheer pleasure of feeling her there in his arms." Were Laurence and Gina really in love, or did they confuse other emotions for love? How would you characterize their friendship before their affair? Were they ever really best of friends?
     
  7. Descriptions abound of the Bee House, High Place, Vi's home, and Fergus's London townhouse. For example, Gus disliked going to High Place because "there were too many unwritten rules there that one was bound to break." Are these residences as much a part of the story as the characters? Do they reflect the personality and/or the actions of their inhabitants in any way?
     
  8. Joanna Trollope portrays three generations of characters in the story. Is one generation any more happy than the others? Do they learn from one another?
     
  9. Hilary sacrificed her career to help Laurence run the Bee House. Do you think Hilary made the right decision in the end of the novel? What would you do if faced with a similar situation? Did the events that took place have a positive effect on her life in any way?
     
  10. The women in the novel—Gina, Hilary, Vi, and Sophy—are all strong characters. How are they alike? How are they different? Did you identify with any of these characters? If yes, which ones and why?
     
  11. In portraying daily domestic life, the author does not sugarcoat the events that take place. How well does she deal with such issues as divorce, death, responsibility, and regret? Are they dealt with in a realistic manner?
     
  12. In one instance Vi says, "We're all alone in the end. Aren't we? We're the only person in our whole lives we can't change, that we're stuck with." What do you think of this statement? How does it relate to the story?
     
  13. Were you satisfied with the story's ending, or do you wish it had turned out differently? If so, how? Was it a believable ending?

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Thoughtful, seamless.” —Washington Post Book World

“Trollope tenderly explores the clash between extramarital passion and the bonds of family love…delicious wryness and large doses of empathy.” —Good Housekeeping

“It is both a delectably sweet and intensely satisfying undertaking to be swept right along with these carefully crafted characters.” —Booklist

“Can a man and woman be friends—best friends? That age-old (but very contemporary) question is the point on which Joanna Trollope’s new novel turns…Trollope’s prose is skillful, and it’s impossible not to be swept along by her story.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jacquelyn Mitchard
From the poignancy of human politics to the politics of human hearts, Trollope goes boldly, with a hidden mirth Jane Austen envies from on high.
Nina Sonenberg
Trollope's gift is her ability to capture far-flung perspectives with compassion, from the confusiton of a stricken adolescent to the quiet perserverance of a courting widower.

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