Joanna Trollope is one of those authors who I've heard of for what seems like forever. But...I've only ever read one of her novels (the updated Sense & Sensibility for The Austen Project...my review is here if you're interested). When her latest, City of Friends, showed up in my mailbox I was immediately intrigued and fell head over heels in love with that cover. I was in the mood for a contemporary tale so it moved itself right to the top of my TBR list. And was it worth it? Yes! It was a delightful story that kept me interested and I knew right away that I'd be passing it on to my mom to read too.
Here's the synopsis:
The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of her life. Or at least, the only life she'd ever known. For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London?City of Friends takes the typical format when multiple characters are the focus of the story. Each chapter of this novel follows a different friend - Stacey, Melissa, Gaby, and Beth - as they each deal with the fallout of Stacey losing her job. I sometimes have problems with books like this but it didn't bother me as much as it normally does. It took awhile to get into and really get a sense of each woman but it flowed better than other novels like this I've read in the past.
As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new—one without professional achievements or meetings, but instead, long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home—she at least has The Girls to fall back on. Beth, Melissa and Gaby. The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and through all the happiness and heartbreaks in between.
But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey's redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits...
That being said, I think I wanted more from each woman. The story takes place over the course of a year or so (I think? That was another issue...I wasn't totally sure how much time had passed.) and each woman had a lot going on that had to be fit into one chapter. There were gaps but I think that's just kind of how life goes. You're going to have days that are of great importance to your life, and those are the ones we got with this novel, but there are also the other days when you're just putting one foot in front of the other and everything is ticking along as usual.
Speaking of being like real life, I thought the friendship between the four women was realistic. They may be in their forties and I'm just in my twenties (hoo boy...can only say that for another month or so!) but female friendships are similar at all ages. I did love the following quote because I knew exactly what kind of "crossed wires" Trollope was referencing. It makes me look forward to even more solid friendships in the future:
"Even when they couldn't meet, they rang each other, or texted, or tweeted. The inevitable crossed wires of their twenties and thirties had mellowed into a much less judgemental support system in their forties." (page 12)They have such a great friendship that they know they are always there for each other even if they don't see each other for a few weeks at a time.
I loved how successful all four women were (yes, Stacey lost her job but she definitely didn't deserve it). They were proud of their successes because they worked hard to get where they were. This hit pretty hard as I was reading this book back on International Women's Day.
The fact that they've had to fight to get where they are, and had to fight much harder than their male counterparts, is referenced throughout the novel. Also, all four women are so supportive of other women in their workplaces and, in Gaby's case especially as she manages so many people, will do whatever they can to make sure other women are able to succeed. As much as I loved this whole female success storyline...I think it shows a lot that I even needed and wanted to reference it. We've come so far but there's still more work to be done!Current read is great for #InternationalWomensDay - 4 women who have worked HARD&moved up in male dominated business world. #IWD #amreading pic.twitter.com/cYXKcXWx0h— Kaley Stewart (@KaleyS23) March 9, 2017
Final note...I already mentioned how much I love this cover. I'm not sure what it is but all of the elements together work for me. This cover is, from what I can tell from my (admittedly not very thorough) Internet sleuthing, for the paperback. There is another cover for the hardcover that I also really love. It has a very different feel but it also fits the story so well. Each woman has a house and lifestyle that suits them, or so they think, and so this cover is lovely. (This is actually making me realize that Trollope spent a lot of time discussing their houses and living arrangements. Interesting that I hadn't noticed it until now.)
City of Friends is a book for you if you love (or are in need of) contemporary novels. Joanna Trollope has written a story of four smart, realistic women that you will thoroughly enjoy reading about. You'll drop into their lives and, at the end, emerge with the desire to text, write to, call, or visit some of your own best friends.
*A copy of this novel was provided by the distributor, Publishers Group Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*