A new novel by Joanna Trollope is always good news for this reviewer. Ms Trollope is the master of domestic drama. Her characters are believable and the challenges that they face are the ordinary family relationship problems that most of us encounter as we move through life – relationships with children, with parents, with partners, with friends usually presented from a woman’s point of view.
Fiction readers who are fans of Joanna Trollope’s fiction, will not be disappointed by her latest novel, The Soldier’s Wife.
Dan Riley, an army major, is just about to return from a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan whens The Soldier’s Wife opens. Alexa Riley is the soldier’s wife in question. Alexa has a daughter, Isabel, from an earlier marriage as well as twin three-old girls. She also has a good friend in Jack Dearglove as well an extended family made up of her parents plus Dan’s father, George, and grandfather, Eric.
The Soldier’s Wife sensitively explores problems in the relationship between Dan and Alexa. Alexa is frustrated by Dan’s seeming unwillingness to communicate. Although he is back from Afghanistan, it feels like he is not really there. He spends too much time with army colleagues, too much time with his friend Gus. Alexa is frustrated that the army seems always to come first. When Isabel gets into trouble at boarding school, Dan puts an army family day ahead of going to see the headmistress. For her part, however, Alexa doesn’t try to reschedule the appointment. Each sees the situation only from their own point of view.
Yet, this is a couple that loves each other and loves their family. For his part, Dan tries to protect Alexa from the horrors of war that he has witnessed. His father, and more especially his grandfather, both of whom have had military careers, understand this but they also like and ‘esteem’ Alexa and are anxious to help when it appears that the marriage may be in trouble.
The Soldier’s Wife is a novel where all the characters are well intentioned. It’s a novel where family wants what is best for family. It’s quintessential Trollope – gentle, insightful, sympathetic. If you liked her earlier novels, then I think you’ll like The Soldier’s Wife.
See also City of Friends and The Other Family