BOOK CLUB: Mum & Dad

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Author: Joanna Trollope
ISBN: 978-1-5290-0339-0
Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan

This review may contain spoilers.


Joanna Trollope is a prolific and distinguished British writer, her latest offering Mum & Dad is the first of her books that I have read.

Mum & Dad explores the dynamics and tensions in families, exploring the assumptions we make about our parents, siblings and children’s lives based on what we think we know.

The story centres around Mum (Monica) and Dad (Gus), their three children, Sebastian, Katie and Jake and their respective families.

Gus and Monica relocated to a property in Spain 25 years ago where Gus planted a large number of Tempranillo vines and now wins many awards from wines made from the grapes.  Sebastian and Katie were left behind in boarding school, unhappily in Katie’s case, and the youngest child, and arguably Monica’s favorite, Jake was raised in Spain.

The children are now all adults, Sebastian is married to Anna and together, well perhaps more Anna than Seb, they run a cleaning business Profclean, they also have two teenage boys.  Katie is a successful solicitor, living with her partner Nic and their 3 children, Daisy, clever, slender and transitioning to adulthood with all the associated teenage angst and secrecy, middle child Marta nursing her own secrets, and youngest Florence, obsessed by food and more than a little precocious,  Jake has moved to England where he lives with his new wife Bella and their 18 month old daughter affectionately known as Mouse.

Then Gus experiences a severe stroke and suddenly the future of the vineyard is in doubt.  Jake steps up to support Monica and the vineyard, leaving Sebastian and Katie to work out how to traverse this new reality while at the same time dealing with old resentments and their own family issues. 

Will Jake’s actions save the vineyard, or destroy it? Who does Gus want to take over the vineyard from him? Will Katie and Monica resolve their communication difficulties? Can the family find a way forward that benefits them all?

Trollope’s characters are very real and most of us will be able to relate to one or more characters or family situations, you will feel the anguish of a parent dealing with a child’s mental illness, and the feeling of helplessness as you try to help them, relate to the person dealing with a lack of self confidence that impacts their ability to be who they really are, empathise with the frustration of a modern day woman dealing with the older generations belief that you did as your husband wanted or the person dealing with a partner who has big ideas, but bigger failings!

In addition to exploring the tensions within a modern family, Trollope invites us into life in rural Spain with an insight into the lives of Pilar, the domestic who effectively runs Gus and Monica’s household, and her family.

Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Macmillan books for the opportunity to read and review this fabulous book. I highly recommend it. 

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

6 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Mum & Dad

  1. Gus and Monica left England 25 years ago to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard
    and a very good wine business. Then Gus suffers a stroke and their life is turned upside
    down and their three grown children have to step in.

    It begins an unraveling of family that have become estranged from one another.

    It involves Sebastion who is busy running a cleaning business with his wife Anna who has
    never really seen eye to eye with her mother in law.
    There also is Katie who is a solicitor and has her own problems with her partner Nic and
    their three daughters.
    Then there is Jake who jumps in and convinces his new wife Bella to move to Spain with
    his eighteen month old baby girl.

    All of them have ideas of how to help Mum and Dad with their business but resentments
    and tensions rise to the surface which reaches almost breaking point.

    This novel involves some of the complexity that can come into Family relationships of
    everyday people.

    This totally engrossing story of parental issues, struggling marriages, sibling rivalry and
    adolescent problems over three generations was one I could not put down.

    Fantastic book and so superbly written.

    Thanks to Macmillan books and Beauty and Lace.

  2. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review.
    The story centres around married couple Monica and Gus, who have resided in Spain for over twenty-five years after following Gus’s dream of owning a vineyard.
    Over time, his wines have become award winning and very popular.
    But when Gus suffers a stroke, his three adult children Sebastian, Katie and Jake, who all live in London, all descend to Spain, but it isn’t long before it becomes evident that each of them has very different views on what it takes to run the vineyard, and to support their parents.
    Sebastian is married to Anna, who doesn’t get along with Monica.
    Katie is a successful lawyer but has a fight on her hands with one of her three young daughters.
    And Jake is determined to get his new wife to move to Spain with their young daughter.

    Unfortunately for me, I didn’t like any of the characters in this story, which in turn made it difficult to remain interested in it.
    Gus was rude and even abusive to Monica and his children.
    Monica seemed very old-fashioned and, well, boring.
    The three adult children also didn’t add much in the way of personality. And whilst the story had some parts that I could relate to, I didn’t take much, if anything, away from it which is a shame.

  3. Monica and Gus are an older couple who uprooted from England 25 years ago to run a vineyard in the south of Spain. When tragedy strikes the family, their youngest son, Jake heads straight from London to be with his parents. Their elder children Sebastian and Katie who also have their own immediate families and careers in London are perhaps not as quick to step in. As the story progresses, we learn the ins and outs of the relationships between the adult characters and get to know their children also. Everyone has an opinion on what is now best for Gus and Monica as they face life never being quite the same again. The book explores the strength of family ties.
    This is the first novel I have read by Joanna Trollope and I found myself immersed in it. The story of adult family members overcoming their own differences was beautifully written and I felt the story unfolded naturally. I enjoyed how it jumped back and forth from Spain to England and despite their being several characters in the story, it was an easy enjoyable read.

  4. Thank you for the opportunity to read Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope.

    I have read one other Joanna Trollope book and enjoyed it, but this was so much more.

    It’s the story of Gus and Monica who left their home in England to start a vineyard in Spain. When they have an emergency their children all rally to help in different ways. Sebastian wants to help, but his wife Anna doesn’t get along well with Monica. Kate is a busy solicitor with a family and no time to help at length. Jake is more casual and hopes to get his partner Bella and daughter Mouse to move to Spain to help the family. What follows is family life, with changes aplenty and a whole lot of emotion.

    This book is written well and we learn so much about each arm of the family throughout and they show change can happen, and things may not always be the easiest path, but when family come together it can work out for the best. It may not seem it at the time… This book gave me hope that family can work together and stick together. Each families story is expanded upon and I love the variety of people we meet and how they mix in the family. They are written in such a real way I feel they come alive in your head and you really feel for them. It is great for any family member who wants to learn how tragedy can end up down the track – and we will pull through one way or another.

  5. When starting a book by such a well-known author, you have a certain expectation, and I can say I wasn’t disappointed.

    I enjoyed this book about Gus and Monica and their children and grandchildren. Gus and Monica own a vineyard in Spain, having moved from England 25 years ago, leaving two children to stay at boarding school there. The problem is now Gus has suffered a stroke and cannot run the vineyard. Who will step up and will it be a success? How will past decisions impact on each family?

    This is an easy-to-read story, where you get to know the characters well and learn about the complex relationships and historic problems between characters.
    Trollope really describes the characters so well – you come to learn about each of the children – Sebastian, Katie and Jake – and what is keeping them up at night.

    You may not like all the characters but I think you’ll find something to relate to in this story – managing busy households; marriage success; the role of grandparents; dealing with teenager issues; supporting older parents from afar – are a few other themes that come through in this well-written book. Ultimately the book is about family dynamics and the willingness to change to support your family in the future, and to move forward rather than be trapped in an unhappy past.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Macmillan publishers for being able to review the book.
    I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it for those who like stories about extend families.

  6. Books about relationships can go either way, and a lot of the time for me comes down to the writing as to whether I’m engaged in the conversation or not. Thankfully when it came to Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope I had no problems remaining interested.

    I really enjoyed this story about Gus and Monica, their children and grandchildren. After moving from England to Spain 25 years ago leaving the lives they know (and two children) behind, Gus suffers a stroke and life changes in an instant.

    Who will step up? What family dynamics and emotions will be forced to the surface? How can past wrongs be turned around?

    Trollope has a great technique of describing her characters, and suddenly you feel part of the family with all their emotional turmoil and issues. It was written in an easy to relate to way, not necessarily presenting anyone as the baddy- just showing how some poor choices combined with misunderstandings can portray anyone in a bad light – and it may not be that easy to turn it around.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Macmillan publishers for the opportunity to review this book.

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