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‘Second Honeymoon’ by Joanna Trollope

(Black Swan, $26.99)Edie Boyd throws a real wobbly when her youngest son moves out of home, leaving her with an empty nest. Hubby Russell is delighted – he thinks he’s getting his wife back, plus a bit of peace and quiet. Wrong. Before too long, everyone is back at home, plus one extra, but Edie is too busy rediscovering her acting career to play oummy again.

I don’t know how Joanna Trollope keeps doing it but she has a very special knack for taking one small aspect of modern-day life and turning it into a novel that keeps you turning the pages. I mean, it’s not like anything much happens: there are no explosions or sudden deaths or house fires, yet her microscopic takes on the workings of the average person or household are every bit as absorbing.

Here’s an example: at the beginning of the book, Edie is distraught that her children don’t need her and are all off doing their own thing. By the end, she’s raging that they don’t pick up wet towels off the bathroom floor or think to tidy the sitting room. Wet towels a drama? Throw them in a sinking ship heading towards an iceberg and maybe. But the truth is that few among us have hit an iceberg, yet most have felt wet-towel rage. Mr had it felt against them.

This is Joanna’s gift – she pinpoints the small things that make us feel strongly one way or the other and transplants them into other people with whom we can sympathise, or otherwise. (It’s usually posh English people, which is another world for us to poke our noses into.) They used to call these sort of books “Aga sagas”, a term I love, which refers to the quintessential centrepiece of an English country kitchen, the Aga stove. Indeed, you may not move far from the cooker in Joanna’s books, but it’s an agreeable journey nonetheless.

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