City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

In brief: Stacey, Gaby, Melissa and Beth have been friends since their first economics class. On the day Stacey loses her job, the secrets and lies between the four begin to unravel.

The good: Each character is unique with a completely different set of problems.

The not-so-good: Stacey, you need to talk more!

Why I chose it: Have never read any of Joanna Trollope’s books before, so it’s high time I started. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy.

Year: 2017

Pages: 329

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: London

My rating: 8.5 out of 10

Confession time: I’ve never read a Joanna Trollope book before City of Friends. Why? I don’t know really. I could make a lot of excuses but the truth is I’ve never really gotten around to it – it’s too hard to go to the library, the local bookshop closed down…then it’s all too late. In a way, City of Friends explores that notion – letting something slide until it’s too difficult, then nearly impossible. But the stakes are much higher here as it’s about secrets within friendships and family.

The story opens dramatically with Stacey losing her job, very suspiciously after she’s asked to work from home some days to look after her mum who has dementia. After her boss says no, he then casually mentions that she’s superfluous to the team and he was going to make her redundant anyway. This really got me simmering, the casual sexism and the fact that it’s pretty much against equal opportunity laws. The explosive start develops into a theme – can women have it all (family and work life)? What are the barriers that women face when they try to do that? Is it so wrong for a woman to say she loves her work before her family? These ideas are what hooked me into City of Friends. It’s a bold investigation into the life of a career woman.

All four women studied economics and now have high flying jobs in the corporate and academic sectors. Except for Stacey, who is a lost end with caring for her mum. It’s a different structure that lacks routine, socialisation and her mum barely notices if she’s there or not. Melissa started her own company and now tells boards of directors what to do. She excels that that but when her son says he wants to spend time with his father, she’s at a loss what to do. Gaby has the family and the high powered job that she openly admits she loves more than her family. Now if she could tell Melissa that she hired her ex-lover’s wife and that she can’t give Stacey a job…but it’s too late. Beth went into academia, becoming an in demand guru of organisation psychology but her relationship is on the rocks. Can she handle a vindictive breakup and change her future?

What was pleasantly refreshing about City of Friends is that it didn’t shy away from the characters’ flaws and mistakes. They were tackled openly once they were brought to the fore. The flaws in each character didn’t make me like them less as a reader, rather I appreciated the honesty and I could see myself being friends with them. They are not superhero workers, lovers and mothers – they all juggle everything and sometimes it fails, occasionally in cringe worthy fashion. Yet the story is not preachy or bogged down in drama – it’s a pleasant read that moves quickly. The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of is the economics as I’m interested in that area, but I really I’m in a tiny minority here (and to be honest, I don’t think it would have fit with the lighter tone of the book). I’ll certainly be seeking out more of Joanna Trollope’s novels as I thought the strong female characters and open exploration of their faults was refreshing.

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 5/12/16

Hi December. You certainly came in with a busy rush! It looks like parties, lunches and dinners are only going to increase in frequency for the next few weeks…hence not a lot of time today to tell you the books I received. Let’s just stick with the books I actually got through the post!

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope (February 2017) came from Pan Macmillan. Stacey has lost her job, and with it the only life she knows. At least she has her three best friends, ‘The Girls’. But they all have problems too and Stacey’s change in situation forces a betrayal to be revealed. Can they still be friends? I’m really looking forward to this!

Another book I was really happy to open was Georgina Penney’s The Barbershop Girl (January 2017). This is Amy from Fly In, Fly Out‘s story through the eyes of British celebrity Ben, exiled after yet another scandal. Ben uses Amy and her family to write about in a London newspaper – but she’s not going to be too happy when she finds out… Thanks Penguin Random House for the book, I’ll take your advice and sit down with a (large) cup of tea for this one!

If you want to check other bookshelves, do drop by the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find many books for the wish list!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Book Date and formerly by Book Journey and J Kaye. Click on the pictures to read more about the books.

What I Read Last Week:

What I’m Reading at the Moment:

Up Next:

Absolutely no idea – maybe a library book.

Mailbox Monday 2/12/13

Finally December! This is going to be a busy (but hopefully enjoyable) month with Christmas and my birthday. It also means my holidays are over and it’s time to go back to work. I did have a lot of fun though!

Rose City Reader is our Mailbox Monday host this month. Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia as a way of sharing your new books and having fun at the same time.

I had a fairly quiet week in terms of books – I seem to be buying more books for others at the moment!

I received a copy of John Safran’s Murder in Mississippi in the post from Penguin Australia and The Reading Room. This is a true crime book, which looks very interesting. I love the cover – it looks even more 3D in the photograph. I’ve enjoyed John’s TV programmes and radio shows, so I’m really looking forward to this. (Actually, I’ve already started it!)

I also attended a focus group and got a gift voucher as a thank you. Of course, this went straight on books:

amy tan joanna trollope tasmina perry nov 13

I chose three new releases – I liked the idea of the dual narrative (historical and present day) in Tasmina Perry’s The Proposal. The Austen Project also sounds really interesting, so I thought I’d try Joanna Trollope’s modern reworking of Sense and Sensibility. Finally, I read an excellent review of The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, plus I loved the cover.

What did you receive in the mail? Are you buying books for your loved ones this Christmas?