Joanna Trollope Essay - Critical Essays

Trollope, Joanna


Joanna Trollope 1943-

(Has also written under the pseudonym Caroline Harvey) English novelist and nonfiction writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Trollope's career through 2004.

Trollope, a distant relative of celebrated nineteenth-century novelist Anthony Trollope, is known for her best-selling novels that feature strong female protagonists struggling for independence, personal freedom, and self-definition against the restrictions imposed by repressive family and community expectations. Her early novels—a series of popular historical romances—display a firm emphasis on the virtues of love, commitment, and marriage. However, with her 1988 novel, The Choir, Trollope began writing narratives set in the contemporary era, among middle-class English families in small provincial communities. In all of her novels, Trollope elucidates the importance of moments of personal growth in which her protagonists learn to take control of their own lives and make decisions based on a strong sense of self, rather than the influence of family or society.

Biographical Information

Trollope was born on December 9, 1943, in Gloucester, England, to Arthur George Cecil and Rosemary Hodson Trollope. Her father, a royal engineer, worked abroad during World War II, and Trollope was raised in the household of her maternal grandparents in Surrey. She graduated from St. Hugh's College at Oxford University in 1965 and completed a M.A. in English at Oxford in 1972. Trollope worked in the department of information and research at the British Foreign Office from 1965 to 1967. She married David Roger William Potter in 1966, with whom she has two daughters, Antonia and Louise. The couple later divorced in 1983. From 1967 through 1979, she taught English in secondary schools and adult education programs. With the success of her first novel, Eliza Stanhope (1978), Trollope was able to begin working as a full-time writer. Trollope published her only work of nonfiction, Britannia's Daughters: Women of the British Empire, in 1983, which profiled significant English women throughout history. In 1985 Trollope married Ian Bayley Curteis, a playwright, who wrote the screenplay for the television adaptation of The Choir. Both The Choir and The Rector's Wife (1991) were filmed for television and broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1995 and 1996, respectively. In 1996 Trollope was recognized with an award of the Order of the British Empire, granted by Queen Elizabeth II. Trollope has received numerous accolades for her work, including the 1979 Historical Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists Association for Parson Harding's Daughter (1979) and the Elizabeth Goudge Historical Award in 1980.

Major Works

Eliza Stanhope was Trollope's first published novel and her only historical romance released under her own name—all of her subsequent romances use the pseudonym Caroline Harvey. Trollope's early novels are set against meticulously researched historical backdrops, however, they reject the traditional emphasis on labyrinthine plotting that is typically found in the genre of historical fiction. Instead, Trollope chooses to focus more heavily on characterizations, courtship, love, and marriage. Taking place in eighteenth-century India, Parson Harding's Daughter recounts the life of Caroline Harding, an English woman stifled by her loveless marriage. Caroline falls in love with a dashing older man who appreciates her for her wit and tenacity rather than her beauty, but refuses to be his mistress and thus lose her independence. She is eventually able to marry the older man after her boorish husband dies in a fire. Trollope continued writing historical novels as Caroline Harvey, including a trilogy of works that have been collectively published under the title Legacy of Love (1983). The series traces a family saga through three central female characters, ranging in settings from Afghanistan in 1841 to London during World War II. Charlotte (1980) follows the eponymous heroine and her sister Emily from England to India, where romance and family discord form the center of the story. The title character of Alexandra (1980) is the granddaughter of Charlotte, who finds love and personal contentment in Edwardian Scotland through the influence of her Aunt Emily. Set at the outbreak of World War I, Cara (1983) explores the life of Alexandra's daughter, Cara, as she discovers romance and happiness through a series of personal tribulations. With The Choir, Trollope began a new phase of her writing career, making the transition from historical romances in exotic settings to more realistic storylines in contemporary settings. However, Trollope's central thematic concern—the struggles of women to attain autonomy and a strong sense of self—remains essentially the same. Most of these later novels focus on the experiences of middle-class women in small, provincial English communities. Her heroines strive for personal independence and self-definition against the constricting forces of tradition, societal pressure, and small-town gossip. Often these difficulties are precipitated by a crisis, such as marital infidelity, divorce, or death, that reverberates throughout the heroine's family and community. The Choir concerns the interpersonal and political entanglements of a small church community after the church dean decides to disband the church choir for financial reasons. Efforts by several citizens to restore the choir are complicated by the impact of the incident on the marriages and family relationships of the various choir members.

Trollope's next novel, A Village Affair (1989), continues her examination of modern female roles in provincial settings. The novel focuses on Alice Jordan, a painter who moves into an idyllic house in a quaint and quietly trendy English village. Alice believes that the move will complete her happiness, hoping that external events—marriage, children, and the patterns of village life—will give her a sense of self and purpose. She unexpectedly finds contentment in a lesbian relationship with Clodagh Unwin, the daughter of the local squire. A Passionate Man (1990) shifts to a male protagonist, following Archie Logan, a middle-aged country doctor, and the effect of his actions on the women in his life, particularly his wife, Liza, and his father's new mistress. Anna Bouverie, the title character in The Rector's Wife, embodies the typical Trollope protagonist—a woman in an isolated community who becomes increasingly frustrated with her limiting prescribed social role. Anna is the wife of a country vicar and, due to her husband's commitment to the church and his role as the town's spiritual advisor, she is unable to own property, hold a job, or explore any personal options beyond serving as a dutiful wife. Set in Oxford, which Trollope portrays as a rural village despite its famous university, The Men and the Girls (1992) examines the issue of aging and the trouble caused by age discrepancies in relationships. The plot centers around Kate Bain who leaves her lover, James, to start an independent life with her teenage daughter, Joss. After working at a battered women's shelter, Kate realizes that her relationship with James was not as confining as she once imagined and returns home. A Spanish Lover (1993) centers on the tension between twin sisters, Lizzie Middleton and Frances Shore, who have taken very different paths in life. Lizzie is married with a family and a successful retail business, while Frances is the unmarried owner of a growing travel agency. Lizzie pities her sister's unmarried state, and Frances's desire to escape the stifling attention of her family is represented by her decision to spend Christmas alone in Spain. As Frances falls in love and grows more happy and successful, Lizzie's life is complicated by financial worries and by the ensuing stresses on her family. The Best of Friends (1995) is another novel whose plot contrasts a pair of women, seen again within the context of marriage and family business. The best friends, Gina and Laurence, have their relationship tested after Gina's husband leaves her, and Gina—in an attempt to cope with the loss—sleeps with the married Laurence. As Gina and Laurence's wife, Hilary, attempt to come to terms with this crisis, the teenaged children in Gina and Laurence's families find their own methods of coping.

Trollope narrowed the focus of her subsequent novel, Next of Kin (1996), even further by setting it on a dairy farm run by an extended family. This specific emphasis allows Trollope to pinpoint the enmeshed family ties and effects of financial hardship that influence Robin Meredith and his daughter, Judy, after the death of his American-born wife, Caroline. Also in 1996, Trollope published Faith, a short novella set in Canada, and in 1997, she released The Brass Dolphin, a Caroline Harvey historical novel set in Malta and Africa during World War II. Other People's Children (1998) examines three generations of families divided by divorce and reconstituted by second marriages. As its title indicates, Other People's Children focuses on the complex relationships between stepparents and their often-reluctant stepchildren. In Marrying the Mistress (2000), Guy Stockdale, a sixty-two-year-old judge, leaves his wife to marry a woman young enough to be his daughter, exploring the repercussions of this act on his adult children and their families. With Girl from the South (2002), Trollope abandoned her traditionally English locations, instead setting the novel in Charleston, South Carolina. Gillon Stokes, a rebellious girl from an old Southern family, meets Henry, a nature photographer, in London during a visit and invites him back to the United States. Gillon is surprised when Henry reacts differently to her relatives—whom she finds stifling—than expected, as he finds their folksy directness both refreshing and charming. In 2004 Trollope published Brother and Sister, a novel that revolves around Nathalie and David, two children adopted by the same family. As they grow older, the bond between Nathalie and David deepens, and they decide to locate their respective birth mothers.

Critical Reception

Although Trollope's historical romances have been popular with readers, a majority of critics have not regarded them as serious literature, labelling them as purely entertaining fiction. Since the publication of The Choir, however, reviewers have begun to recognize the significance of Trollope's work, applauding her realistic portrayals of suburban English life and her insightful portraits of familial bonds. Trev Broughton has described Trollope as “an expert as an anatomist of the beleaguered middle-class home.” Commentators have noted Trollope's skill in tracing the impact of individual decisions on extended families or small communities and complimented her commitment to such recurring themes as love, grief, change, and personal transformation. Jonathan Yardley has stated that Trollope addresses “large themes in unassuming surroundings and explores them with wit, feeling and originality.” Many reviewers have expressed admiration for her strongly sketched, sympathetic characters and her lively sense of humor. Despite such praise, some critics have found Trollope's plots to be contrived and her conclusions unsatisfying to the reader. Several feminist academics have found fault with Trollope's oeuvre for failing to address larger feminist and political concerns by reducing her characters' dilemmas to a level of personal crisis rather than societal conflict. Trev Broughton has asserted that, despite Trollope's considerable skills as a storyteller, “as an exponent of the ‘post-feminist’ love story … Trollope seriously misses the mark.” Sarah Rigby has similarly observed that, “[a] mild version of feminism shapes [Trollope's] writing. It incites identification and is gently provocative, but ultimately it's more comforting than subversive. She evades radical conclusions.”

Principal Works

Eliza Stanhope (novel) 1978

Parson Harding's Daughter (novel) 1979; republished as Mistaken Virtues, 1980

Charlotte [as Caroline Harvey] (novel) 1980

Leaves from the Valley (novel) 1980

Alexandra [as Caroline Harvey] (novel) 1980

The City of Gems (novel) 1981

Britannia's Daughters: Women of the British Empire (nonfiction) 1983

Cara [as Caroline Harvey] (novel) 1983

*Legacy of Love (novels) 1983

The Steps of the Sun (novel) 1983

The Taverners' Place (novel)...

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Faith Evans (review date 6 January 1984)

SOURCE: Evans, Faith. “In Consort.” New Statesman 107, no. 2755 (6 January 1984): 23.

[In the following review, Evans comments that Britannia's Daughters: Women of the British Empire offers “excellent illustrations of its subject matter,” but laments the volume's lack of reference material and a conclusion.]

Queen Victoria, quoted here in 1870, reminds us how little Britain's women leaders have done to promote their sisters' cause:

… this mad, wicked folly of ‘women's rights’, with all the attendant horrors on which her poor feeble sex seems bent … is a subject which makes the queen so furious...

(The entire section is 674 words.)

Toby Fitton (review date 10 June 1988)

SOURCE: Fitton, Toby. “A Zeal for the Fabric.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4445 (10 June 1988): 643.

[In the following review, Fitton asserts that, despite its intricate plot structure, the conclusion of The Choir leaves too many unresolved character issues.]

The publishers make more than the author does of The Choir as a cathedral-city story by a descendant of Anthony Trollope; but the Barchester parallels are fortunately not laboured in this well-plotted novel by his kinswoman. Like Barchester, “Aldminster” (a fictional Gloucester) is a densely populated, closed community in which news spreads fast and ill-temper is infectious, but the...

(The entire section is 583 words.)

Anne Chisholm (review date 29 May 1993)

SOURCE: Chisholm, Anne. “The Way Quite a Lot of Us Live Now.” Spectator 270, no. 8603 (29 May 1993): 27-8.

[In the following review, Chisholm describes A Spanish Lover as “a wonderfully easy and agreeable read,” noting Trollope's skillful prose and the emotional viability of her characters.]

With her six previous novels of contemporary middle-class English manners and morals, Joanna Trollope has over the last few years established, with striking success, a particular tone and territory. The tone is wry, humorous, sensible, sometimes bracingly sharp; the territory is the village, the country town, the rectory, the cathedral close, the doctor's surgery,...

(The entire section is 943 words.)

Trev Broughton (review date 11 June 1993)

SOURCE: Broughton, Trev. “Maastricht Romance.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4706 (11 June 1993): 22.

[In the following review, Broughton asserts that A Spanish Lover displays Trollope's keen ability to dissect the “beleaguered middle-class home,” though notes that the work is unsuccessful as a “post-feminist” romance novel.]

Joanna Trollope's new novel [A Spanish Lover] follows the fortunes of Lizzie and Frances, twins in their thirties. Lizzie is firmly rooted in Trollope country: a “large but not boastful” house, a mild-mannered husband, an up-market small business and four blisteringly articulate children. The reader can guess that...

(The entire section is 581 words.)

Alison Light (review date 9 July 1993)

SOURCE: Light, Alison. “Sense and Sensitivity.” New Statesman 6, no. 260 (9 July 1993): 33-4.

[In the following review, Light contrasts A Spanish Lover with Anita Brookner's A Family Romance, criticizing both authors for reducing issues of societal conflict to the level of interpersonal conflict.]

On the surface they couldn't be more different. [Anita] Brookner is melancholy, cosmopolitan, her heroines the denizens of heavily carpeted mansion flats and prosperous London suburbs, well-heeled and well-turned out but ultimately life's losers and its natural solitaries. Trollope, on the other hand, is cheerful and mildly Anglican, her territory the shires...

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Jonathan Yardley (review date 6 October 1993)

SOURCE: Yardley, Jonathan. “A Trollope for the 20th Century.” Washington Post, no. 305 (6 October 1993): B2.

[In the following review, Yardley praises Trollope for her strong characterizations and “sensitivity to social nuance” in The Men and the Girls.]

Yes, Joanna Trollope is, as you may well have suspected, “a descendant of 19th-century English novelist Anthony Trollope,” so the dust-wrapper copy for The Men and the Girls informs us. She is also, as you may well have hoped, Trollopian: not perhaps in pure literary fecundity (her career, after all, is still young), but certainly in sensitivity to social nuance and in strength of characterization....

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Elaine Kendall (review date 15 October 1993)

SOURCE: Kendall, Elaine. “Relationships Slide into Generation Gap.” Los Angeles Times (15 October 1993): E4.

[In the following review, Kendall compliments Trollope's “witty” portrayal of modern romantic relationships in The Men and the Girls.]

Though the author is a descendant of Anthony Trollope and has written historical novels, The Men and the Girls is a brisk, thoroughly contemporary story of relationships between a pair of 60ish men and the young women with whom they live.

As the book begins, these connections are beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. The generation gap, hardly noticeable when the couples met, suddenly...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Elaine Romaine (review date spring 1994)

SOURCE: Romaine, Elaine. Review of The Men and the Girls, by Joanna Trollope. Belles Lettres 9, no. 3 (spring 1994): 78.

[In the following review, Romaine discusses the theme of freedom versus responsibility and the mirroring of characters to create contrast and depth in The Men and the Girls.]

Old age permits us “to dispense with exaggerated feelings and vain agitations,” wrote Madame de Maintenon in the 18th century. It allows distance, freedom from cultural expectations, even possibly wisdom. In Joanna Trollope's The Men and the Girls, Beatrice Bachelor, “a true Oxford spinster,” is the figure around whom the novel's characters play out their...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Victoria J. Barnett (review date 18 January 1995)

SOURCE: Barnett, Victoria J. Review of The Rector's Wife, by Joanna Trollope. Christian Century 112, no. 2 (18 January 1995): 60-3.

[In the following review, Barnett examines the conflict between private life and public image in The Rector's Wife, noting the protagonist's struggle to obtain independence, autonomy, and a sense of personal identity.]

Joanna Trollope's book (and the BBC dramatization shown this past fall on public television) is one of numerous stories about a married woman who rediscovers her identity by escaping her marriage. But any reader who has been inside a parsonage will know that The Rector's Wife is much more than a story...

(The entire section is 1081 words.)

Jennifer Potter (review date 31 March 1995)

SOURCE: Potter, Jennifer. Review of The Best of Friends, by Joanna Trollope. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4800 (31 March 1995): 20.

[In the following review, Potter criticizes The Best of Friends for its weak plot and unconvincing characterizations.]

Newly deserted by her priggish, art-dealer husband, Gina Sitchell puts their meticulously restored country-town house on the market. Medieval with late-seventeenth-century additions, it has all the right 1990s accoutrements: elm shelves, waxed flagstones, recessed sockets. But no Aga, tut-tuts a prospective buyer dressed in faintly ridiculous metropolitan black. “We'd have to put one in … I have one in...

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Kate Hubbard (review date 1 April 1995)

SOURCE: Hubbard, Kate. “Taste as a Moral Guide.” Spectator 274, no. 8699 (1 April 1995): 36.

[In the following review, Hubbard asserts that The Best of Friends includes “all the hallmarks for which Trollope is loved,” including provincial settings, sympathetic characters, rich detail, and humor.]

In her last novel, A Spanish Lover, Joanna Trollope transported part of the narrative to Spain, and although she brought her usual thoroughness to bear on Andalucian architecture and cuisine, it wasn't quite the same. So it is with a small sigh of relief that, with The Best of Friends, we find ourselves safely back in Gloucestershire, or...

(The entire section is 758 words.)

Sarah Rigby (review date 8 June 1995)

SOURCE: Rigby, Sarah. “Making Lemonade.” London Review of Books 17, no. 11 (8 June 1995): 31-2.

[In the following review, Rigby argues that Trollope's writing deserves to be taken more seriously by critical audiences, citing The Best of Friends as an example of how powerfully Trollope handles such themes as “the stifling social hierarchies and the prejudices of provincial communities among old-fashioned institutions.”]

Critics don't think much of Joanna Trollope's novels. They call them inconsequential, petty and suburban. But that's beside the point, because as far as money and fame are concerned she's a phenomenal success. The critical reaction isn't...

(The entire section is 2798 words.)

David Sexton (review date 4 May 1996)

SOURCE: Sexton, David. “Down on the Farm.” Spectator 276, no. 8755 (4 May 1996): 29-30.

[In the following review, Sexton lauds Trollope's treatment of the themes of love and loss through death, separation, and divorce in Next of Kin, asserting that Trollope possesses “the true novelist's gift of being able to involve the reader's fantasy.”]

At his wife's funeral, Robin Meredith was asked by a woman in a paisley headscarf, whom he didn't immediately recognise, if he wasn't thankful to know that Caro was now safe with Jesus.

Nobody who has read Joanna Trollope would have any difficulty in guessing the...

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Joanna Trollope and David Finkle (interview date 3 February 1997)

SOURCE: Trollope, Joanna, and David Finkle. “Joanna Trollope: Family Plots with Untidy Endings.” Publishers Weekly 244, no. 5 (3 February 1997): 80-1.

[In the following interview, Trollope discusses her career, the reasons why she writes under a pseudonym, and the themes of change and disappointment in her novels.]

A journalist invited to visit Joanna Trollope in her grey-stone, peak-roofed home in Coln St. Aldwyns, Gloucestershire immediately sees the vitality and matter-of-fact charm that define her sharply nuanced and witty portraits of English middle-class life. Although Trollope doesn't usually allow reporters into her home, she has broken her rule for...

(The entire section is 2154 words.)

Sandra Scofield (review date 23 February 1997)

SOURCE: Scofield, Sandra. “Twins Coping with the Changes in Their Lives.” Chicago Tribune Books, no. 54 (23 February 1997): section 14, p. 3.

[In the following review, Scofield notes that A Spanish Lover is obviously targeted towards a more commercial audience than Trollope's previous works, but argues that the author succeeds in creating “an entertaining, cosmopolitan story that gives ‘women's fiction’ a fresh standard of intelligence.”]

A best-selling author at home in England, Joanna Trollope (The Choir, The Rector's Wife) has charmed Americans with her gentle, wry novels of the provincial English middle class. In her new book, she...

(The entire section is 770 words.)

Michael Harris (review date 3 March 1997)

SOURCE: Harris, Michael. “Comedy and Romance as a Happy Couple.” Los Angeles Times (3 March 1997): E3.

[In the following review, Harris offers a mixed assessment of Trollope's combination of romance and domestic comedy in A Spanish Lover.]

The cliché about the English is that they are good at compromising, at muddling through. This may or may not be true in general, but Joanna Trollope's A Spanish Lover suggests that it has some relevance to literature. In most American novelists' hands, the romance and the domestic comedy are separate genres, even antagonistic ones; but Trollope manages to combine them.

She does this by having twin...

(The entire section is 663 words.)

Aisling Foster (review date 20 March 1998)

SOURCE: Foster, Aisling. “The Stepmother's Story.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4955 (20 March 1998): 23.

[In the following review, Foster comments that Other People's Children marks another stage in Trollope's “evolution from escapist fiction into realism.”]

Decorum is the backbone of Joanna Trollope's fiction. Her very English, middle-class characters live ordinary, well-meaning lives, until things begin to go wrong. Then, like the excellent Aga cooker with which these sagas are too often associated, the same solid individuals reserve the capacity to hurt and even scar the unwary. The ability to open the lid on pain raises Trollope's stories above...

(The entire section is 692 words.)

Byron Rogers (review date 28 March 1998)

SOURCE: Rogers, Byron. “The Importance of Being Parsley.” Spectator 280, no. 8851 (28 March 1998): 29.

[In the following review, Rogers argues that, despite its engaging thesis, the impact of Other People's Children is lessened by the novel's weak plot and Trollope's unusual emphasis on cooking and kitchens as a measure of character.]

Behind this book [Other People's Children] is a Good Idea. Nothing wrong with that: other novels have been successfully based on a writer's discovery of a Good Idea, like the dramatic potential of slavery or the effect of further education on the Victorian rural poor. It is just that at some point you do need to become...

(The entire section is 1269 words.)

Ruth Johnstone Wales (review date 9 July 1998)

SOURCE: Wales, Ruth Johnstone. “Love's Labor in a Small English Town.” Christian Science Monitor 90, no. 157 (9 July 1998): B5.

[In the following review, Wales offers a mixed assessment of The Best of Friends, commenting that the characters fail to engage the reader.]

“I think love is a very good place to start,” a psychologist counsels one of the wronged wives in Joanna Trollope's new novel. In fact, The Best of Friends is all about love: between friends, lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children, across generations.

For Vi and Dan, a pair of retirement-housing elders, love is a late-in-life warm blessing. For Laurence...

(The entire section is 369 words.)

Brigitte Weeks (review date 30 July 1998)

SOURCE: Weeks, Brigitte. “A Tale of Ordinary Lives and Families Falling Apart.” Washington Post, no. 237 (30 July 1998): B2.

[In the following review, Weeks compliments the universality of Trollope's themes of romance, relationships, marriage, and children in The Best of Friends.]

Despite the longevity of Masterpiece Theatre, chroniclers of the ways of the British middle classes have a surprisingly difficult time scoring hits in the U.S. market. Joanna Trollope hasn't made her mark here yet. And that is a shame. Love, marriage, children and relationships are universal themes, and Joanna is as poised and intricate a portraitist as her famous novelist...

(The entire section is 681 words.)

Hugh Massingberd (review date 5 February 2000)

SOURCE: Massingberd, Hugh. “Loads of Fun but Not a Barrel of Laughs.” Spectator 284, no. 8948 (5 February 2000): 35.

[In the following review, Massingberd describes Marrying the Mistress as a “remarkable” novel about intergenerational relationships and family dynamics.]

‘I'm one of those rare chaps,’ a genial Staffordshire landowner once told me, ‘who can boast that my mother was a Trollope.’ Arf-arf. Such gags would, I fear, fall into the ‘hearty’ category of male speech occasionally noted in Joanna Trollope's remarkable new novel [Marrying the Mistress] about the knock-on effects of a grandfather's affair on the ‘dynamics’ of...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Emma Tristram (review date 25 February 2000)

SOURCE: Tristram, Emma. “A Very Polite Refusal.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5056 (25 February 2000): 21.

[In the following review, Tristram asserts that Marrying the Mistress lacks both engaging dramatic elements and substantial characterizations.]

The main impulse behind the construction of Marrying the Mistress seems to be one of refusal. Joanna Trollope likes to suggest important elements, then say no to them. This starts with the setting; Guy Stockdale is a judge, and in the opening chapter his case involves an abused teenage girl. Asked why she slept with her stepfather, she says: “He was like a god to me.” This speech is more extreme and...

(The entire section is 615 words.)

Carolyn See (review date 16 June 2000)

SOURCE: See, Carolyn. “The Last Straw.” Washington Post, no. 194 (16 June 2000): C2.

[In the following review, See observes that the central theme of Marrying the Mistress is how actions can have far-reaching effects on one's family and personal relationships.]

When Simon Stockdale [in Marrying the Mistress], a hard-working family man approaching his 40th birthday, hears that his own father will be leaving his mother and marrying a woman he's had an affair with for seven years, the news presents itself as unbearable in every way. For one thing, Simon has given over his whole life to a certain brand of probity and virtue. He and his wife seem never to...

(The entire section is 949 words.)

Jonathan Yardley (review date 15 July 2001)

SOURCE: Yardley, Jonathan. Review of Next of Kin, by Joanna Trollope. Washington Post Book World 31, no. 28 (15 July 2001): 2.

[In the following review, Yardley commends Trollope for her examination of change, loss, transformation, renewal, and growth in Next of Kin.]

In this, as in her nine previous novels, Joanna Trollope finds large themes in unassuming surroundings and explores them with wit, feeling and originality. Next of Kin centers on a farming family, the Merediths, in England's Midlands. As it opens, one family member has just died, a victim of cancer; midway through a second dies, in more surprising and dramatic circumstances. From these sad...

(The entire section is 1287 words.)

Michael Harris (review date 7 August 2001)

SOURCE: Harris, Michael. “Author Keeps Characters' Motivations Shrouded in Secrecy.” Los Angeles Times (7 August 2001): E3.

[In the following review, Harris notes that grief plays a pivotal role in Next of Kin, but comments that Trollope's use of omniscient narration lessens the novel's overall impact.]

Caro Meredith never quite fit in. A rootless Californian, a self-described “nomad,” she married an English dairy farmer out of her hunger for permanence but kept subtly aloof from her husband, Robin, and his family. All the more surprising, then, that Caro's death from a brain tumor should have such an impact on the Merediths, sending out shock waves to...

(The entire section is 658 words.)

Leanda de Lisle (review date 2 February 2002)

SOURCE: de Lisle, Leanda. “A Romantic Novel without the Throbbing Manhood.” Spectator 288, no. 9052 (2 February 2002): 32.

[In the following review, de Lisle faults Girl from the South as a painfully boring read, but assures readers that fans of Trollope's writing will probably enjoy the novel.]

I had some idea that Girl from the South might be an aga saga. As an aga owner, I was intrigued, but as Trollope's thousands of fans know, she has turned her back on agas. She writes critically acclaimed books about the sagas of step-parenting and divorce instead. Fay Weldon compares her to Austen. Her latest book addresses the plight of the single...

(The entire section is 619 words.)

Wendy Holden (review date 4 February 2002)

SOURCE: Holden, Wendy. “Lager Saga.” New Statesman 131, no. 4573 (4 February 2002): 51.

[In the following review, Holden commends Trollope's portrayal of family relations in Girl from the South, calling the work “ tightly written” and “acutely observed.”]

I was always a huge fan of Joanna Trollope's Aga sagas, especially on telly. For my money, Lindsay Duncan's performance as the angst-ridden, adulterous rector's wife [in The Rector's Wife] was the highlight of her acting career (which cannot be said for her inexplicably well-received Private Lives with Alan Rickman). I felt Trollope was being gloriously subversive with the...

(The entire section is 601 words.)

Christopher Tilghman (review date 23 June 2002)

SOURCE: Tilghman, Christopher. “Innocents Abroad.” Washington Post Book World 32, no. 25 (23 June 2002): 9.

[In the following review, Tilghman criticizes Trollope for failing to accurately portray the life and culture of the American South in Girl from the South.]

How the English regard the American deep South—indeed, what they know of its distinctive surviving characteristics—is a source of speculation for many of us. When a novelist with a fine sense of what Flannery O'Connor called the mystery and manners of ordinary life takes on the task, we can read with special interest. The English novelist Joanna Trollope is certainly a strong candidate, and her new...

(The entire section is 789 words.)

Bernadette Murphy (review date 9 July 2002)

SOURCE: Murphy, Bernadette. “A Facile, Feel-Good Tale of Tangled Relationships.” Los Angeles Times (9 July 2002): E3.

[In the following review, Murphy comments that Girl from the South ultimately fails to address the complexities of human relationships.]

“Chick flick” is the term, often used pejoratively, to describe those films that attract a predominantly female audience. Typically told from a woman's perspective, these films tend to highlight relationships over plot-driven action, use either internal monologues or heart-to-heart conversations to reveal motivations and portray character development and often include some kind of tear-inducing scene as...

(The entire section is 687 words.)

Antonia Fraser (review date 7 February 2004)

SOURCE: Fraser, Antonia. “Charting a Minefield.” Spectator 294, no. 9157 (7 February 2004): 30.

[In the following review, Fraser offers a positive assessment of Brother and Sister, calling the work “a very fine and complex novel.”]

The title of Joanna Trollope's new novel—Brother and Sister—arouses interesting Jacobean expectations. Is there a whiff of incest here to join the lesbian perfume of A Village Affair (a personal favourite, just ahead of The Rector's Wife)? But there is in fact no Jacobean incest along the lines of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. There is pity indeed from Trollope, in a very fine and complex novel, but...

(The entire section is 708 words.)

Further Reading


Arana, Marie. “Joanna Trollope: Anything but Ordinary.” Washington Post Book World 31, no. 39 (30 September 2001): 8.

Arana provides a brief overview of Trollope's life and career.

Lego, Suzanne. Review of Next of Kin, by Joanna Trollope. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care 34, no. 2 (April-June 1998): 36.

Lego commends Next of Kin for its treatment of the inevitable changes that loss and grief engender in one's life.

Levy, Lisa. “Love with a Cast of Thousands.” Washington Post, no. 357 (27 November 2000): C2.

Levy lauds A Second...

(The entire section is 254 words.)