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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 30 January 2012
Dan Riley, a major in the British Army, is home from a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan. He has an attractive and clever wife, Alexa, a step daughter, Isabel, and lively three-year-old twins, Tassie and Flora. His entire family is very proud of him, especially his grandfather, an ex-army man himself. Dan is highly thought of by his men and his superior officers, and he is in line for promotion; life, therefore, appears rather good for Dan.

However, adjusting to home life after the excitement and horror of war is not easy for Dan - and Alexa is finding it difficult to cope with a husband who seems to put the welfare of his men above his family. An intelligent woman, Alexa loves her children and is a good mother to them, but she does have needs and desires of her own and sometimes finds being a full-time wife and mother rather limiting; therefore, when she is offered a teaching job that she realizes she is unable to accept, she understandably feels confined and frustrated. Added to this, Alexa is worried about Isabel, who is unsettled and unhappy at boarding school; there is a problem with one of Flora's eyes, and Beetle, the adored family dog, is ill. Alexa needs to share her worries with Dan, but he does not seem to have the time to discuss their problems. There always seems to be an issue concerning his men to be dealt with, and then there is his best friend, Gus, whose wife has left him, and who needs Dan's support and company. Alexa turns to her girlfriends and her good male friend, Jack, who is always there at the end of the phone, to offer her his advice and support. And when Dan can't attend a meeting with the headmistress at Isabel's school, it is Jack who takes the time out to support Alexa. Suddenly, a marriage which appeared very solid, is starting to look rather shaky...

In 'The Soldier's Wife' Joanna Trollope revisits the topic of one of her earlier books: 'The Rector's Wife', where she explores how a family copes when the husband and father has a vocation, instead of an occupation, and where the needs of his family cannot always take precedence. Trollope, as always, writes about family life with insight and intelligence, highlighting the pitfalls and minefields that occur in relationships - especially just at that moment when everything seems to be going well. This is a very readable novel - not quite on a par with The Rector's Wife and The Choir (which I believe to be her best books) but an enjoyable and entertaining read and a good story to curl up on the sofa with.

4 Stars.
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on 9 February 2012
As someone who is married to an Army officer, I found this book disappointing. Although some of the observations and emotions are accurately articulated and well phrased, generally I thought it was too simplistic and did not reach the heart of the issues.

I found both the plot and the characters very thin and did not find an emotional attachment with any of the characters. I also found people too simply observed - it's not just as simple as the man comes home from a tour and isn't communicative and busy at work, there is far more to it than that.

I also found the views expressed about the main character's wife unrealistic. Everyone from her in-laws to her husband's senior bosses seem to adore her and blame her husband for being uncommuncative. I think the reality is that whilst the Army hierachy is sympathetic to the pressures on the families, their husband is expected to perform and do well and she would be expected to support that. In addition, although hopefully in-laws would be supportive of their child's spouse, the reality is that they would give far more sympathy to the person returning from a hellish operational tour. I think there would be much more of the wife being expected to provide support to the serving person.

I don't wish to give away too much of what plot there is but I also found the "answers" to the issues overly simplistic and easy. I had hoped that the book would really tackle the issue of being married to someone in the Army who you love desperately but their job is so all encompassing that you are really married to the Army but felt it only skimmed the surface. It felt like the first episode of a serial drama and I was waiting for the plot and characters to really bed in when the book ended.
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on 13 February 2013
Being a soldier's wife myself, I SO wanted to like this book. I didn't begin it with the intention of finding fault and picking holes in Joanna Trollope's research on Army life. I was very excited to find a novel based on modern day soldiering and Army life covering pertinent issues. It was in fact very well researched in most areas, and I had a giggle immediately upon reading the comment about the maintenance contractors based in Liverpool (fellow Army wives will know exactly why that tickled me!). However, as another reviewer pointed out, the actual homecoming which I had been so looking forward to reading about was completely glossed over. In my opinion, it started to go downhill from there. Yes I completely understand Alexa's frustration at her and her childrens' lives being dictated by her husband Dan's career in the Army, but I think it went a bit far. Personally, adjusting to life together after a long period of deployment has been our bugbear as a family, not the sudden realisation that my own dreams and ambitions are put on hold indefinitely. I found it hard to like Alexa, or indeed any of the adult characters in the book. She was so negative and despite the histrionics remained very one dimensional to me. It became somewhat emotionally draining and I only saw it through to the end as I can never start a book and not see it through. It was the first of JT's books I've ever read; I've not been put off reading anything by her again, but I am disappointed that this didn't live up to my expectations.
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on 30 March 2012
I have read many Joanna Trollope novels but feel that she has really lost her 'touch'.This book is formulaic and unrealistic.Her characters are badly drawn and the plot is non-existant.It is hard to believe that men, especially soldiers, would be so open about their personal lives with other men.
All in all a waste of time.
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on 11 October 2013
This may be more interesting if you have knowledge of what it is like to have a soldier husband coming back from Afghanistan but as I haven't and know nothing about the impact on family life or on their emotional state, it really bored me. I was more interested in the family dynamics but these were sketchily drawn and the characters were stereotyped - upper-class girl married t o working -class man who had "made it' to the top of his profession.
The end result was so obvious and unlikely and again i have no knowledge of the life in an army complex.
I felt that the trauma of war was described so as to give some reason for the actions of the main characters but even these descriptions seemed, to me, out of place and not an integral part of the story.
Altogether a disappointing read
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2012
I've never read Joanna Trollope before but this is a compelling and insightful look at the pressures of being an army wife today. I have no idea how realistic this book is, and do wonder if the experience is very different for the wives of lower ranking soldiers rather than the officers' wives who make up this book. In that sense, this fits the stereotype I've always associated with Trollope, of her writing about very middle-class lives.

In many ways, this is a story that could have been written about any group of wives: their lives are pressurised by the claims of their husbands, the problems of their children, and the constant negotiations over their own interests versus being a good wife and mother.

I enjoyed reading this but it did feel like a very `safe' book to me with no surprises, especially in the ending. If you enjoy domestic dramas, then this is well-written and involving.
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on 24 February 2012
The Soldier's WifeThere are few books which have irritated me as much as this. I like Joanna Trollope's yarns generally, and had looked forward to this one as she is usually a safe pair of hands when writing about middle-class lives. Paradoxically, because she summed up the horrors of army life so well in the beginning and middle of the book, the ending was a massive disappointment and I'm surprised that whichever army wives she had advising her (and I can only imagine that they were the wives of VVSOs keen to confide that they had "helped dear Jo with her latest book")didn't tell her that her solution to the age-old problem of how the wives are to balance their husbands' careers with their own lives and those of their children was unrealistic and unworkable, and probably deeply unhelpful. The truth is that things won't change: army officers don't have to consider their wives and children and the army actively encourages them in this. As the saying goes: "if you can't take a joke, don't join." I would advise anyone thinking of marrying an army officer to read this book, probably omitting the last chapter, and understand that she will be left to cope alone while her husband sallies forth to do exactly what he has always wanted: to engage with and kill the Queen's enemies. And she'd be lucky if she had parents and in-laws as helpful as those of JT's heroine! Apart from that, very neat characterisation, possibly a little cliched but then I guess we army wives do fit into those tidy little moulds. It was unputdownable (I read it in one sitting), but that might have been the military connection and my high hopes for sensible Joanna-type advice. Probably 6/10: could do better.
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on 10 March 2015
I don't know what's gone wrong - when I discovered Trollope I devoured her back catalogue and couldn't wait for her new books to come out but now I'm feeling distinctly underwhelmed. I feel she has suffered the curse that authors do when their accumulated fame and wealth sets them apart from the struggles of the average person - Jane Green has gone the same way. Her writing is still beautiful but started to feel a bit mechanical - I started to notice how she achieves her effects which is never a good sign as I like to get lost in the story.

The story feels heavily contrived - as if the whole army background is just a backdrop against which a familiar drama can be played out - ie a wife rebelling against her restrictive lifestyle and demanding her own career. Does Trollope think we are still living in the 50s? This stuff is hardly cutting edge and not even relevant to many Britons who are more concerned with financial survival which often involves both partners having low paid, unfulfilling jobs than such niceties as a wife struggling for self fulfilment.

Trollope fails to really take into consideration the special circumstances in Alexa's life - ie that she is married to an army officer and knew full well that their lives must revolve around his career. Her friend Kate is even worse and I felt sorry for her husband. Most women would just be grateful to have their husbands return home alive, in one piece, but these harpies just turn on their poor men with a list of demands/ultimatums. As with any job that involves constant travel/relocation the spouse must face the fact of likely seperations/having to put their own career on the backburner, unless they have the kind of skills that can be easily transferred. The irony is that Alexa is a teacher with linguistic skills, one would have thought that she would be able to get some sort of job in most overseas posting and she could certainly work as a supply teacher/part time in the UK if she wanted to. But she doesn't even consider this an option - she must have a full on career right away, despite the fact that her husband is in line for a promotion and that she has three year old twins who are pretty demanding. Ironic given that many women are attracted to the teaching profession for the very reason that they can be flexible/work part-time when they have kids.

Trollope also seems a bit out of touch with reality - no sane person would leave a secure army job these days without having something else to go to, she seems to believe that wives have to take over their husbands credit card debts on their death and she also includes a scene with irritated me intensely - a woman is given a few days to decide on whether to accept a job and when she rings up is told they have decided to give it to someone else! I would be stunned if any potential employer treated me in such a totally unprofessional way but then as I said before the whole novel is highly contrived and unrealistic.

The best scene in the novel is where one of Alexa's friends has a go at her, accusing her of going round in circles with her arguments and having an unrealistic sense of entitlement (it's almost like Trollope has gotten sick of her own character) but sadly this is quickly forgotten and(as another reviewer commented) all Alexa's friend/family seem to spend most of their time worrying about her totally self created dramas. The book does go round in circles - Alexa sulks, her husband tries to placate her, relatives rally around, rinse repeat and so on.

The sub plot concerning the daughter Isabel is much more engaging and I really did feel for her unhappiness at boarding school - and frankly I couldn't see any good reason why she should be there and not at day school with her mother and siblings. I also liked Dan's father and grandfather, most of the other characters I could take or leave.

It was a holiday read that passed the time, but absolutely not on a par with Trollope's best work. I doubt I will buy any of her future novels unlike they come at a bargain price.
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on 31 October 2012
I read this in one sitting thinking- I could have written this! As an ex-Army wife of 25 years I have seen it all, and certainly some of the sentiments expressed pulled at the heart strings. But Army life is too varied to be thus depicted, and I found the storyline somewhat hackneyed and the writing trite: it probably has a limited market: those of us who lived that life, and those who may live it in the future.
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on 27 March 2012
I have read all Joanna Trollope's books over many years and used to really look forward to a new one being published. However, her last three have been really tedious, depressing and irksome. The Soldier's Wife was no exception. The characters were all moans, had unattractive personalities and not at all likeable. I want to relate to characters, form a bond with at least one of them and feel uplifted when reading it and sad when I've finished it. With these last 3 books, every page was filled with arguments, sniping, discontentment and nastiness. I ploughed my way through them, but never again. It's time Joanna Trollope realised that her style of writing is not what most people want. Someone please tell her!
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