If you belong to the ‘sandwich generation’ then ‘Mum and Dad’ by Joanna Trollope is a must! And I am delighted to be discussing with with a fellow sandwich generation member – my gorgeous friend Sally Seymour.

Alex and Sally (L to R)

Sally has 3 kids – tweens and teens – and lives just around the corner from me. She also juggles work, kids, community stuff and her parents so this book is right up her alley too!

What’s It About?

It’s been twenty-five years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard and wine business from the ground up. However, when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in – and this is where it gets complicated.

The oldest, Sebastian is busy running his company with his wife, Anna, who’s never quite seen eye-to-eye with her mother-in-law. Katie, the middle child and only daughter is a successful solicitor in the City who is distracted by the problems with her long-term partner, Nic, and the secretive lives of their three daughters. And Jake, ever the easy-going optimist and ‘baby’ is determined to convince his new wife, Bella, that moving to Spain with their eighteen-month-old would be a good idea.

As the children descend on the vineyard, it becomes clear that each has their own idea of how best to handle their mum and dad, as well as the family business. But as long-simmering resentments rise to the surface and tensions reach breaking point, the family ties prove strong enough to keep them together?

About Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope is the queen of contemporary women’s fiction and is very tuned in to the issues of her devoted, predominantly female readership. She has a real knack for honing in on the complexities of life and love and has included the themes of lust, adoption, divorce, infidelity and the changing nature of the modern family in her 30 plus novels! Some of her earlier novels were written under the pseudonym Caroline Harvey.

While many assume she had a privileged upbringing, she is quick to remind anyone that asks that she had a frugal and austere middle-class existence and that she attended a grammar school – an Australian equivalent of a public school.

Born in 1943 in her grandfather’s Gloucestershire rectory, the oldest of three children, she didn’t meet her father until he returned from military service in India when she was three. While she and her sister were state-educated, their brother was sent to private school – the trauma of boarding school is weaved into the story of Mum & Dad. She is a distant relative of famous 19th century author Anthony Trollope.

She was discouraged at school from aspiring to university but she won a scholarship to read English at Oxford, where a careers officer solemnly informed her: “The world, of course, is your oyster, girls: you can teach, you can nurse or you can sit the civil service exam.” Trollope says: “I remember going out from this interview and standing rather gloomily by our bicycles, and Jill looking at me and saying: ‘D’you know, I think we’re going to have to get married.’”

Instead, she briefly worked at the Foreign Office, before marrying a banker, David Potter, at the age of 22 and retraining as a teacher. She began her first (unpublished) novel while pregnant with the first of her two daughters. In 1980, she won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s novel of the year award for her second novel, Parson Harding’s Daughter. She turned to contemporary fiction on the advice of her second husband, the TV dramatist Ian Curtis and he was proved right in 1991, when her fourth novel pushed Jeffrey Archer off the top of the bestseller charts. The Rector’s Wife went on to become the first of her novels to be adapted for TV.

Although her sales no longer rise to such dizzy heights, they chug along nicely. Writing at a rate of one novel every two years, she has sold more than a million books in the past decade. Her standout books include: A Village Affair, Other People’s Children, City of Friends, Brother and Sister, Sense and Sensibility and The Best of Friends. You can find a full list of all her work here.

An adaptation of The Rector’s Wife (1994) was produced for Channel 4. The Choir, adapted by Ian Curtis, was a five-episode BBC television miniseries in 1995. A Village Affair and Other People’s Children were also adapted for television.

Today, she is a grandmother and lives on her own in London.

Why Alex and Sally Liked It

  • This is a guidebook for member of the sandwich generation. Those of us who are feeling pulled between our kids and our parents who then discover we have little petrol left in the tank for ourselves and our partners. Sound familiar??
  • It is very raw and honest, possibly even a little dark – a departure from Trollope’s usual style, according to Sally. There is no ‘sugarcoating’ or ‘filters’ used here which helps to normalise this experience for the reader.
  • The characters are complex and very relatable. They are at least 3 dimensional so it is easy to empathise with them and understand how family disagreements and resentments arise.
  • It deals with the often complex resentments between mothers and daughters that can stem from generational opportunity. Women who are currently in their mid-life are allowed to have it all (often with a supportive partner in tow) while these opportunities were never ‘on the table’ for their mothers.
  • Trollope writes with a message of hope. She reminds us that families are worth fighting for and that resentments and tensions can be navigated.

You can listen to Alex and Sally’s chat on the podcast via your favourite podcast app, or by clicking on the link below.

Thanks so much for being part of the book club!

Alex xx

PS Our next book is Untamed by Glennon Doyle on November 27.