Henry loves Tilly. What's not to love? She's beautiful, elegant, does everything to perfection. Henry has lived with her for the past 10 years. But he won't commit. And Tilly is getting desperate.
Into this picture comes Gillon, a geeky American girl interning in London. Tilly meets her at a party, spills a drink on her and takes her out to dinner by way of compensation. Little does Tilly know this friendless, floundering girl from Charleston, South Carolina, will steal her boyfriend. To find out how this contemporary love triangle pans out, you'll have to read Girl from the South, Joanna Trollope's latest novel.
Girl from the South is a departure for Trollope, a quintessentially British tale bearer whose work falls nicely onto the same subtle shelf as Barbara Pym's and Mary Wesley's. In her latest venture, Trollope takes the action over the Atlantic to Charleston. Trollope's Charleston is a world richer in ritual and convention than England ever thought of being. And Gillon comes from one of the city's most elegant families. Yet the Southern girl fails to drop neatly into the puzzle. At 30, she is still unmarried, childless, not even on the fast track to a high-powered career. Determined to search for her own unique destiny, she seems to have fallen far behind her popular, married sister in the game of life.
However, things are never exactly what they seem on the surface in this intriguing Trollope novel. People who follow all the rules often have their own regrets. Like Tilly, Gillon's sister and grandmother are trapped in a regimen that defines who they are and how they will behave.
To her conventional family, Gillon is a disappointment, but to Henry, she is everything Tilly is not. Where Tilly is brittle and demanding, Gillon is tentative, searching and formidably honest. She may never get her act together, she warns Henry.
"It might take my whole life. I might drive you nuts while I keep thinking just this or just that will do the trick," she says. In exploring the differences between Tilly, Gillon and conventional Southern women, Trollope captures the choice that all modern women make-whether to take the easy path of fulfilling other people's expectations or the harder, more poorly marked trail of deciding what you expect of yourself.