Fiction: Picking at the knot of family tiesFiction

30th January 2004 at 00:00

Brother amp; Sister
By Joanna Trollope
Bloomsbury pound;16.99

By Frances Itani
Sceptre pound;14.99

How to Breathe Underwater
By Julie Orringer
Penguin pound;10.99

People who haven't read Joanna Trollope's intelligent dissections of modern dilemmas affecting family life, love and friendship often think they know exactly what her novels are like. The image is of middle-Englanders with a whiff of bohemianism, and a line-up of female characters who could all belong to the same book group, in which they are currently reading Joanna Trollope.

This theory collapses as soon as you realise you would never want to discuss a Joanna Trollope in a book group; this one in particular is to be read and savoured alone with a box of tissues to hand when you feel you should be doing something else.

Brother amp; Sister provides insights into the ripple effect of the decision by two adults who were adopted and brought up as siblings to trace their respective birth mothers and the considerable emotional toll on all concerned. It studies Nathalie's and David's response to their adoptive status as children and adults and their partners' guilt-ridden resentment at the bond between them, which is deeper than that of many biological siblings because of their shared preoccupation with unanswered questions.

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine


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