It isn’t true that Joanna Trollope (pictured above) only produces novels about the kind of people who have an Aga in their kitchen: what she writes about are families. Her books have a knack of chiming with current social concerns, of examining how the family is adapting to changing social mores. She is deservedly a very popular writer, but she isn’t a frivolous one.
The Soldier’s Wife (Doubleday, £18.99) is a cracking read and has clearly been thoroughly researched. All the little details which animate a novel ring true. It centres on the homecoming of a Major who has been on a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, the effect of this supposedly joyous reunion on his wife and children — and himself. But what happens once everyone has embraced and the bunting has been put away?
There was a mother at my children’s kindergarten whose husband was in the navy. I once asked her how she coped with his long absences. ‘I don’t mind when he’s away’, she said. ‘It’s when he comes home the problems start’. I laughed, but I didn’t really know what she meant. The Soldier’s Wife explains why.
Trollope always has a wider theme and here it is the welfare and the future of the military family. It has been the traditional lot of the army wife to follow the drum. Whether it is reasonable — or right — to expect such selflessness is under question in this compassionate, humorous and topical novel.