Work and female friendship are central themes in Joanna Trollope’s latest novel, City of Friends. This is the story of four women who met as economics students and whose friendship has endured into their forties. Each has a successful career but struggles to balance her personal and domestic responsibilities with work.
For Stacey, a senior partner in an equity firm, the drama begins when she seeks flexible working. She wants to work from home so that she can keep an eye on her mother who has dementia. But instead of acceding to her request, the company makes Stacey redundant. She is stunned. It’s the first time in her life that she has been unemployed and she quickly begins to lose herself.
For university professor Beth, the drama is the breakdown of her relationship with a younger woman.
Management consultant Melissa’s drama begins when her son Tom decides to build a relationship with his father’s family.
For investment banker Gaby, work always comes first. This creates tension with her husband Quin and also impacts her relationship with her children, Taylor, Claudia and Liam.
City of Friends — Minor Characters
Trollope cleverly interweaves these domestic dramas using minor characters to create connections and tensions in the individual friendships between the four main characters.
Of the four, Gaby is the one who most often speaks to the virtues of work. For example, in a letter to her eldest daughter Taylor, she advises: “Try to focus on work rather than falling in love. That may seem a classic mother-not-understanding thing to say, but it’s work that will keep you going through love and children and marriage, it’s work that will actually provide more fun than almost anything else that happens to you.”
Each of the four main characters is defined by work as much if not more than by their personal relationships. And for each, to some extent it is, as Gaby says, work that keeps them going. But friendship also keeps them going and never more so than when work knocks them down.