Picks and Pans Review: The Best of Friends

updated 06/15/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joanna Trollope

The Bedfords and the Woods are true bosom buddies. They have shared youthful hopes and middle-age disappointments. But their friendship faces a severe test when Fergus Bedford announces that he's leaving his wife, Gina. Distraught, she turns to her oldest friend, Laurence Wood. After sympathy turns into late-night kisses, then a clandestine affair, there is grief enough to go around.

Bestselling British novelist Joanna Trollope has staked out the rural upper-middle class as her literary quarry and shows an especially sensitive understanding of the pain children suffer when their parents break up. "I'd give anything to have the yelling and screaming back again, anything," 16-year-old Sophy Bedford moans. The children's anguish is matched by the helplessness and guilt of their parents. Friends is marred by stock characters and a pat ending, but Trollope's portrayal of parents and their children is haunting. (Viking, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Decent tale of a marriage in trouble

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