Joanna Trollope Criticism - Essay

Faith Evans (review date 6 January 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Toby Fitton (review date 10 June 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Anne Chisholm (review date 29 May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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,...

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Trev Broughton (review date 11 June 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Alison Light (review date 9 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Elaine Romaine (review date spring 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Victoria J. Barnett (review date 18 January 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Jennifer Potter (review date 31 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Sarah Rigby (review date 8 June 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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David Sexton (review date 4 May 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Sandra Scofield (review date 23 February 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Michael Harris (review date 3 March 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Byron Rogers (review date 28 March 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Ruth Johnstone Wales (review date 9 July 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Brigitte Weeks (review date 30 July 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Hugh Massingberd (review date 5 February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Emma Tristram (review date 25 February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Carolyn See (review date 16 June 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Jonathan Yardley (review date 15 July 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Michael Harris (review date 7 August 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Leanda de Lisle (review date 2 February 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Wendy Holden (review date 4 February 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Christopher Tilghman (review date 23 June 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Bernadette Murphy (review date 9 July 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Antonia Fraser (review date 7 February 2004)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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