The Barnes & Noble Review
Joanna Trollope is a No. 1 bestselling author in England. Here in the States, she has legions of faithful fans who have cherished each new book that has come across the Atlantic. In her latest, The Best of Friends, Trollope crafts a tale about two childhood friends who are now grown up with children, but whose marriages are on the brink of betrayal.
Gina and Laurence had been the best of friends ever since they were teens but never in love. Gina married Fergus Bedford, an antique dealer who bought the sophisticated and elegant High Place for them to live in. Laurence married Hilary, a down-to-earth woman who helped him transform his shambling inheritance, The Bee House, into both a home and a small hotel.
When Fergus realizes that living with Gina and their daughter, Sophy, is no longer what he wants, it's to The Bee House that Gina flees, beginning a cycle of misery and heartache. It ricochets through both families from Sophy, who longs for things to be as they were; to Gus, Laurence and Hilary's son, who adores Sophy; to Gina's 80-year-old mother, Vi, who has found true love for the first time in her life. In her loss, Gina turns to her dearest friend, Laurence, and finds something completely unexpected the type of love that will send both marriages to the brink of betrayal.
The Best of Friends addresses what Joanna Trollope writes about best: "suspense of the heart" (USA Today). Trollope believes, "It is the mark of good fiction that the writer's eye is a kindly one...that there is a sense that we're allinthis together." That sympathetic eye is seen throughout this must-have book, which fans of Trollope are sure to enjoy while introducing this secret pleasure to unfamiliar readers.
Read an Excerpt
THE BEST OF FRIENDS
by Joanna Trollope
"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 childhoodbut 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 familiesas 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- The women in the novelGina, Hilary, Vi, and Sophyare 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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 friendsbest 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
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.
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.