Who doesn’t love a good old, Joanna Trollope “AGA Saga?” This one is pretty new (October 2020) involved the sunshine of Spain and wasn’t the drama of my family.
Gus and Monica fled the UK almost 30 years ago to start a vineyard in sunny Spain. Their three children, Sebastian, Katie, and Jake, all weathered that change differently. Sebastian and Katie, older and in school at the time, were parked in boarding school back in the UK while Jake went along with Mum and Dad to the new life in Spain.
Fast-forward to today. The vineyard regularly wins awards for it’s superb wine. Back in London, Sebastian and his type-A wife, Anna, are at odds and he is feeling like less than a man. There sons listen only to Mummy. Katie and her Nic, a college professor, are doing ok, but the middle of their 3 daughters isn’t. Monica is feeling purposeless. She and Gus have long ago left romance and even friendship behind. She potters in her little vineyard shop and gets in the way of the help. All of this crashes to a halt though when Gus has a stroke.
Each little family unit, Mom & Dad, Katie & Nic, Sebastian & Anna and Jake & Bella, all have struggles–struggles they do not share with the rest of their family. Now that there’s the “What to do about Dad” problem, will they pull together or move further apart?
It’s hard to criticize a one-woman industry of a writer! One who had a genre coined just for her books. Still, I couldn’t help feeling this one was a little too “going through the motions” or even, dare I suggest? “Phoned in?” Perhaps it is just that publisher’s begrudge anything over 200 for a page count? That’s about 100 pages off her best books–The Rector’s Wife and The Choir. The pressure to produce yet another family story must be horrible.
The characters never came truly alive. They, too, went through the motions. The kids spoke in a way I don’t even imagine one of the few day boys at Harrow would speak to their parents today. (Ok, her families aren’t THAT posh! They likely attend the State schools recommended in the Tatler or else attend a tony day school with crested blazers.) That was the oddest part though–how kids spoke in general, but especially Sebastian’s sons spoke to their mother. Of course, those parents were terribly, terribly earnest about parenting so who knows? Anyway, that part didn’t ring “real” with me.
I’ll just finish by saying this wasn’t her best, but it might not be the worst, either. It’s perfect for a long flight or for a little escape into a world that is normal, but not yours. There’s no Corona or lock-down or treason in it at least.