Jersey Festival of Words: Joanna Trollope Life and Works
By David Edbrooke
CONVIVIAL conversation was the order of Saturday evening at the Opera House, where Joanna Trollope chatted about her career with refreshing candour.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever thought there was anything new to say,’ she told BBC Radio Jersey presenter and host for the evening, Cathy Le Feuvre. ‘Shakespeare and Socrates have described every human situation there has ever been under the sun. All you can do is reinterpret the old truths for your own time.’
Trollope’s latest novel, An Unsuitable Match, is released in paperback form on 4 October. The novel’s heroine is a 64-year-old called Rose, who is about to fall in love with Tyler, a chap she knew when she was a teenager.
Rose has three daughters from her first marriage and Tyler, who is widowed, has two daughters – and not one of their offspring wants them to go through with their plan to marry the other.
‘One of the consequences of everyone living longer is that a lot of people from my generation get married again – by then you’ve got grown-up children and they all have opinions,’ she told Mrs Le Feuvre, who courageously returned to the stage after a bout of coughing had forced her off it at one point.
With Trollope perched on a sofa facing the audience and her interviewer sitting in an adjacent armchair, this was a cosy set up. It was almost as if we, the Opera House audience, had been invited into Trollope’s living room. All that was missing was the crackle of a warm fire.
Trollope’s books have kept her atop the bestsellers’ lists for more than 30 years and almost all of them are rooted in domestic reality.
‘I’m haunted by all those silent couples staring at their phones on St Valentine’s Night, sitting in restaurants with a single rose between them and not communicating in any way at all,’ she explained. ‘I deal in reality, so it’s about domesticity – romance can be unloading the dishwasher together.’
Trollope became a full-time writer in 1980, having worked as a civil servant and then a teacher after graduating from Oxford. It was her fourth novel, The Rector’s Wife, that made her a household name.
Judging by this audience’s favourable reaction to the readings she gave in her immaculate diction, An Unsuitable Match will be another bestseller.