Author: Joanna Trollope
London : Doubleday, 2011
Rachel is married to Anthony and the mother of three sons. She has devoted her life to bringing up her sons in Suffolk, giving up her career to focus on her family. But now they are all adults and married and Rachel struggles with the changes in her family. The daughters-in-law now have more influence over her sons than she does and the family starts to drift apart.
The oldest son, Edward, is married to the “Swedish daughter-in-law” Sigrid. The middle son Ralph, has always been a bit odd but has married Petra, a young student Rachel and Anthony took under their wing. And the novel opens with the marriage of Luke to Charlotte, the most determined to show her authority and not defer to Rachel’s wishes. Charlotte upsets Rachel by inviting the extended family to her new flat in London; Rachel is put out that the family won’t gather at her table as usual. Then we start to see the issues the other daughters-in-law have had with Rachel and how they have dealt with them.
Ralph loses his job and finds he needs to move to London to support his young family. Petra resists this idea as she is happy living a simple life near the coast. Rachel and Anthony want to help Petra and Ralph but Petra resists the need to change. This causes frustration for Ralph and his parents, and eventually the other brothers get involved too. The family needs to find a new way of relating to each other and Rachel needs to give up some of the control she has had over her sons’ lives.