Trollope, Joanna 1943–

views updated

Trollope, Joanna 1943–

(Caroline Harvey)

PERSONAL: Born December 9, 1943, in England; daughter of Arthur George Cecil (a managing director of a building society) and Rosemary (a painter; maiden name, Hodson) Trollope; married David Roger William Potter (a banker), May 14, 1966 (marriage ended); married Ian Bayley Curteis (a writer), 1985 (marriage ended); children: Louise, Antonia. Education: Oxford University, M.A., 1965. Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, poetry, nineteenth-century fiction, conversation, friends, very long baths.

ADDRESSES: Home—Oxford, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Peters Fraser & Dunlop, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Foreign Office Information and Research Department, London, England, staff member, 1965–67; worked as an English teacher for twelve years in preparatory schools, as well as a teacher for adult and foreign student classes; also worked in the children's clothing business. Writer-in-residence, Victoria Magazine, 1999.

MEMBER: International PEN, Society of Authors (council member), Romantic Novelists' Association, Trollope Society (vice president), West Country Writer's Association (council member).

AWARDS, HONORS: Historical Novel of the Year Award, Romantic Novelists Association, 1979, and Elizabeth Goudge Historical Award, 1980, both for Parson Harding's Daughter; Order of the British Empire, 1996.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Eliza Stanhope, Hutchinson (London, England), 1978, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.

Parson Harding's Daughter, Hutchinson (London, England), 1979, published as Mistaken Virtues, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.

Leaves from the Valley, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1980.

(As Caroline Harvey) The City of Gems, c. 1983, Transworld Publishers Ltd. (England), 1999.

The Steps of the Sun, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1984.

The Taverners' Place, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1986.

A Village Affair, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.

A Passionate Man, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1990, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Rector's Wife, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1991, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Trollope Omnibus: A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector's Wife, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1992.

The Men and the Girls, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.

The Choir, Black Swan (London, England), 1992, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

A Spanish Lover, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1993, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

The Best of Friends, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1995.

Next of Kin, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1996.

Other People's Children, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

Marrying the Mistress, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.

Girl from the South, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

Brother and Sister, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

Second Honeymoon, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

The Book Boy, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

UNDER PSEUDONYM CAROLINE HARVEY; NOVELS

Legacy of Love, [England], 1992, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.

The Brass Dolphin, [England], 1997 Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

A Second Legacy, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.

OTHER

Britannia's Daughters: Women of the British Empire (nonfiction), Hutchinson (London, England), 1983.

Author of forewords and introductions to books, including An Illustrated Autobiography: Including How the 'Mastiffs' Went to Iceland, by Anthony Trollope, A. Sutton (Wolfeboro, NH), 1987; Starting from Glasgow, by Rosemary Trollope, Sutton Publishing (Stoud, Gloucestershire, England), 1998; and Life, Death and Art: The Medieval Stained Glass of Fairford Parish Church: A Multimedia Exploration, edited by Sarah Brown and Lindsay MacDonald, Sutton Publishing (Stoud, Gloucestershire, England), 1997. Feature writer for periodicals, including Harper's, Queen Magazine, Independent, and the Telegraph.

ADAPTATIONS: The Choir was filmed for television and broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1995; A Village Affair was filmed by TBA Films & Video, 1995; The Rector's Wife was filmed for television and broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre, 1996; Other People's Children was filmed for television by BBC1 and broadcast, 2000; Marrying the Mistress was adapted for stage, 2005. Trollope's novels have been adapted as audiobooks.

SIDELIGHTS: Joanna Trollope is a member of the same family as nineteenth-century novelist Anthony Trollope, and she has carried on the family tradition with best-selling novels set in the modern English countryside. "One reason for choosing the provinces and small rural communities," Trollope told Joanne Kaufmann in People, "is that they're so dramatic from a novelist's point of view. Any incident that's slightly out of the norm is more pronounced." Trollope's novels have been adapted for television and broadcast in the United States on the Public Broadcasting Service, bringing her stories to a wide audience.

"The hallmarks," wrote Kate Hubbard in the Spectator, "for which Trollope is so loved [are] a provincial setting; families in the throes of crisis; sympathetic characters; plenty of cheering warmth and humour and lots of lovely details." Although these familiar characteristics commonly appear in Trollope's novels, the stories she creates are widely varied in situation. The Rector's Wife, for example, tells of a woman's troubled relationship with her minister husband; The Best of Friends traces the friendship between two English couples, one the owners of a hotel, the other well-to-do art dealers; and Next of Kin focuses on how a dairy farmer's family copes with their mother's death.

Writing in BookPage, Michael Sims explained that Trollope's novels "usually begin with an emotional situation that [she] finds compelling." A strong emotion, Trollope believes, is of universal interest. She told Sims that "a broken heart is a broken heart in Moscow, Tokyo, Vancouver. I want to tell a story that strikes a chord as widely as possible." Her ability to appeal to a wide audience is evidenced by the fact that her books have been translated into over twenty languages and published around the world.

Trollope's strengths as a writer include being able to be "nimble and witty" in the presentation of her story, even if multiple characters are involved, according to Elaine Romaine in Belles Lettres. Commenting on the novel The Men and the Girls, Romaine found that "Trollope's pacing of witty dialogue and quiet reflection creates a comedy—sometimes dark—of what otherwise might be one more novel about domestic tribulations." Hubbard praised how Trollope handles her characters: "Whilst turning a wise and compassionate eye on human failings, Trollope withholds judgment…. Too well-mannered to underline her characters' short-comings, she employs taste as a form of moral guide."

"Most of Trollope's characters," wrote Sims, "have not surrendered to the despair so common in contemporary fiction." Trollope explained that she enjoys writing of strong characters. As she told Sims, "I love writing about that moment in people's lives—and it happens to an enormous number of people—where they turn protagonist. They realize that they don't have to just react; they can take the steering wheel for themselves."

David Sexton, writing in Spectator, compared Trollope to the American writer Anne Tyler: "Tyler explores the American dream of always being able to move on, to leave the mistakes and impedimenta of the past behind and start again at any time. Trollope, on the other hand, works with the English habit of taking what you're given, settling for what you've got, narrowing life down, never opening it out. Trollope and Tyler, though, have in common the true novelist's gift of being able to involve the reader's fantasy."

According to James Klise in Booklist, readers will empathize with the problems and people that they follow in Other People's Children: Trollope "has a gift for creating realistic, middle-class characters, engaged in recognizable dilemmas." As Trollope has exhibited in past works, noted Francine Fialkoff in the Library Journal, "her endings are never simple." Portraying "vulnerable, maddening, often likable characters," with Other People's Children the best-selling English author "turns the myth of the wicked stepmother on its head," commented Linda Barrett Osborne in the New York Times Book Review. "Perceptive and wise, Trollope writes absorbingly," stated a Maclean's critic.

With Marrying the Mistress "Trollope again displays her extraordinary gift for representing the intricacies of familial relationships and the vicissitudes of domestic life," reported a Publishers Weekly contributor, noting that the story presents common themes "intelligently, as moral and emotional tangles faced by thinking, interesting people." Published in 2000, Marrying the Mistress quickly became a best-seller in Britain. Helen Gibson, writing in Time Europe, observed: "It caused a stir because Trollope firmly sides with the novel's protagonist, a sixty-two-year-old judge who wants to leave his wife and marry his young barrister mistress. Laura, the deserted wife of forty years, who has apparently sacrificed career for family and devotes herself to her house and garden, is the villain of the piece." Laura Jamison maintained in People that the author's "abundant skills" disappoint in Marrying the Mistress, which is "excruciatingly bland fare." However, Booklist contributor Danise Hoover recommended the novel, declaring it "rich in accurate, piercing detail of domestic life and populated with strongly developed, realistic characters." "Just as one has forgotten the intense pleasure of reading Trollope, along comes another flawless novel," remarked Fialkoff in a Library Journal assessment.

Trollope's The Brass Dolphin was released as the first of an expected historical novel series. Trollope, who published the novel under the pseudonym Caroline Harvey, introduces Lila Cunningham and tells of her life from the late-1930s to the mid-1940s. On the verge of financial ruin, Lila and her father relocate from their English home to Malta, where they encounter a "class-based culture," according to Amanda Fung in the Library Journal. There Lila falls in love with a wealthy and charming man. Lila's dreams eventually fall apart, however, as the destruction of World War II enters her life. "Trollope creates memorable characters while capturing the fear, suffering, and devastation of Nazi raids," praised Fung. Although New York Times Book Review contributor Eden Ross Lipson felt that the "flimsy, predictable romance plotting is trite and forced against the rich account of wartime bravery and survival," Booklist critic Nancy Pearl found it a "quintessential gentle read," one that "harkens back to the books of Elizabeth Cadell and D.E. Stevenson."

In her novel A Passionate Man, Trollope tells a story that turns upon the main character's relationship with his father. Archie is a doctor with a wonderful wife and children, but when his father remarries, Archie is overcome with resentment. When his father dies, Archie becomes estranged from his family, yet strangely attracted to his stepmother. "Fast-paced and stirring, this is a strongly emotive and, at times, disturbing novel," commented Bonnie Johnston in Booklist. She further described it as a "compelling journey" of everyday people.

Girl from the South features a heroine from South Carolina, Gillon Stokes, who takes a trip to London to do some art research and befriends a nature photographer named Henry. Gillon invites Henry to South Carolina for a visit, and he soon becomes deeply involved with her entire family, "turning their sense of themselves and each other upside down," as a Publishers Weekly writer reported. The author plays the casual nature of the Londoners against the more rigid ways of the Americans in a way that is "deliciously pointed," said the reviewer.

Trollope's Brother and Sister examines the intense bond between David and Nathalie, who were adopted and raised as siblings but were born to different mothers. In adulthood, they marry and begin families of their own, but their lives are thrown into confusion after they decide to locate and meet their birth mothers. According to Library Journal contributor Susan Clifford, Trollope portrays her characters convincingly, with "warmth, intelligence, and humanity." Clifford concluded that she is "a credit indeed to her famous literary ancestor, Anthony Trollope."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Belles Lettres, spring, 1994, Elaine Romaine, review of The Men and the Girls, p. 78.

Booklist, February 1, 1997, Michele Leber, review of A Spanish Lover, p. 926; May 1, 1998, Alice Joyce, review of The Best of Friends, p. 1506; April 1, 1999, James Klise, review of Other People's Children, p. 1387; August, 19, 1999, Nancy Pearl, review of The Brass Dolphin, p. 2030; May 1, 2000, Danise Hoover, review of Marrying the Mistress, p. 1654; October 1, 2000, Bonnie Johnston, review of A Passionate Man, p. 324; February 15, 2004, Michele Leber, review of Brother and Sister, p. 1039.

Entertainment Weekly, July 17, 1998, Megan Harlan, review of The Best of Friends, p. 78.

International Fiction Review, January, 2004, Nora Foster Stovel, review of Girl from the South, p. 97.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Girl from the South, p. 524; February 1, 2004, review of Brother and Sister, p. 108.

Library Journal, March 1, 1997, Don Wismer, review of The Choir, p. 118; May 15, 1998, Susan Clifford, review of The Best of Friends, p. 117; February 15, 1999, Francine Fialkoff, review of Other People's Children, p. 186; July, 1999, Amanda Fung, review of The Brass Dolphin, p. 137; March 15, 2000, Nancy R. Ives, review of Other People's Children, p. 146; April 1, 2000, Francine Fialkoff, review of Marrying the Mistress, p. 133; February 15, 2004, Susan Clifford, review of Brother and Sister, p. 164.

Maclean's, June 22, 1998, "Booking a Summer Passage," p. 48.

New Statesman, February 4, 2002, Wendy Holden, review of Girl from the South, p. 51.

New York Times Book Review, April 6, 1997, Betsy Groban, review of A Spanish Lover; June 21, 1998, Nina Sonenberg, review of The Best of Friends; August 22, 1999, Linda Barrett Osborne, review of Other People's Children; October 10, 1999, Eden Ross Lipson, review of The Brass Dolphin.

People, February 10, 1997, Joanne Kaufman, review of A Spanish Lover, p. 34; June 15, 1998, Emily Listfield, review of The Best of Friends, p. 49; June 26, 2000, Laura Jamison, review of Marrying the Mistress.

Publishers Weekly, February 3, 1997, David Finkle, "Joanna Trollope: Family Plots with Untidy Endings," p. 80; September 22, 1997, "Trollope Moves from RH to Viking," p. 23; March 23, 1998, review of The Best of Friends, p. 75; February 22, 1999, review of Other People's Children, p. 65; May 8, 2000, review of Marrying the Mistress, p. 206; April 15, 2002, review of Girl from the South, p. 38; February 16, 2004, review of Brother and Sister, p. 149.

Spectator, April 1, 1995, Kate Hubbard, review of The Best of Friends, p. 36; May 4, 1996, David Sexton, Next of Kin, pp. 29-30; February 2, 2002, Leanda de Lisle, review of Girl from the South, p. 32; February 7, 2004, Antonia Fraser, review of Brother and Sister, p. 30.

Time, June 12, 2000, Nadya Labi, review of Marrying the Mistress, p. 87.

Time Europe, April 3, 2000, Helen Gibson, "All in the Family."

Times Literary Supplement, March 31, 1995, Jennifer Potter, review of The Best of Friends, p. 20.

ONLINE

BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (February, 1997), Michael Sims, interview with Joanna Trollope.

Joanna Trollope's Home Page, http://www.joannatrollope.com (November 1, 2005).