Book Review – Close Relations by Deborah Moggach

First published, 1997

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows Hammond family. Gordon and Dorothy have been married for forty-four years. They have raised a family of three daughters, Louise, Prudence and Maddy, and run a construction business together.

Gordon works too hard. His view of the world is rather narrow, he uses insensitive language partly to annoy his daughters and partly because he knows no better. He rushes around, fixing things, eating fried food, smoking and generally getting stressed, until one day, he has a heart attack. During his convalescence, Gordon’s named nurse is a young black woman called April. As they get to know each other, Gordon rapidly falls in love with April and leaves Dorothy with the shattered remnants of their life together.

Meanwhile, the daughters are not without their own problems. Louise, beautiful and charming, is a wife and mother. Her husband is somewhat distant, staying away for work with some regularity. Her children are teenaged and rather difficult. A lonely man in the village shop has been totally infatuated with her for years, about which, of course, she has no idea.

Prudence, studious and sensible, has been having an affair with a married man, who she works for, for nearly a year. Working at an old publishing house in London, she retreats from thoughts of her boyfriend’s wife by reading multiple manuscripts. Being an unorthodox relationship, at best, Prudence can’t really introduce her superior and boyfriend to her sisters, but spies an opportunity to do so when Erin, a local gardener, thrusts a manuscript into her hands. Prudence begins reading and can’t stop.

With the distraction of Erin, enigmatic, charismatic lesbian, at the table, Prudence can rely on Maddy, recently returned from charity work in Africa, a hardy, tomboyish type who takes no fools and speaks her mind, not saying something appalling to Stephen.

As the private lives of the women quickly unravel, they find themselves relying on their neglected familial relationships to find a strength they didn’t know they had.

A lovely, intricately-crafted novel, with some very memorable characters and lines of prose I found myself recalling with a smile. I think this is the third time I’ve read it and I look forward to the fourth.