Reading: A Hobby For Life

It’s always a pleasant surprise to see how our neck of the woods attracts so many famous names in the literary and artistic world.

Recently we were lucky enough to catch Joanna Trollope, author of over twenty best selling novels, in conversation at Calstock Arts.

Joanna writes extensively about the culture she is from – well healed, middle England, but with a keen eye for what lies underneath. As she puts it, “the veneer of civilised behaviour on the middle classes is paper thin.”

She read aloud from her latest book, “An Unsuitable Match”, a delightful exchange between its main character Rose Woodrow, a divorcee in her mid-sixties, and an old acquaintance who has reappeared in her life:

“I’ve never felt this way about anyone…..I love you.”

“But I’m 64. I’m a Grandmother!”

The acquaintance continues, “I’ve never done this before. I desperately, really desperately want to marry you.”

And, Joanna interjects, “This is where the children come in.”

“We’re not picking on you Mum, we’re just worried!”

Joanna qualifies her observations with charming candour, “The great aim of my books is to get conversation going. Money and family relationships are recurring themes, as they are in life. Most readers are passionately in favour of Rose’s right to a new relationship, but less passionate about the idea of one of their own parents leaving money to the children of their new partner.”

Joanna’s keen observational skills apply to marital relationships too. “Good marriages – admiration and respect for each other’s principles, livelihood and attitude are less sensational than romantic love which turns the pages of most English novels with their focus on trouble, dilemma and difficulty.”

Joanna’s passion for writing is amplified by her campaigns to protect local libraries from closure. She believes that they offer warm, safe spaces for aspirational thinking, “something that is terribly important in a fractured society”. And the novel, she believes, has a vital role in helping us learn about the world and survive our own emotional rollercoasters by connecting to characters who are suffering similarly.

In a defence of her trade shared by her predecessor, Jane Austen, Joanna explains that the novel tells us about humanity, showing us, “in every conceivable way what we could only learn by living life itself.”

If you need an excuse to pick up that book…

 

First published in Love Saltash – December 2018

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