The Woman of Substance: The Secret Life That Inspired the Renowned Storyteller Barbara Taylor Bradford

Piers Dudgeon, Author . St. Martin's $23.95 (347p) ISBN 978-0-312-35340-7

Dudgeon, a British biographer with books on Catherine Cookson and Josephine Cox, salutes Bradford's intrigue-laden books with both his title (a play on her bestselling Cinderella story) and subtitle. Developed with Bradford's cooperation and cordial dinner invitations, this biography plunges into the author's salad days, carefully sorting out the circumstances that gave rise to her 20 bestsellers. With both narrow and wide-angle lenses, Dudgeon explores the familial hardships, career triumphs and cultural forces that informed and inspired her romance novels, which turn on colorful heroines with flinty pride and family secrets. Born in 1933, Bradford rose from working-class dreamer to wealthy celebrity, and her novels tap into the era's aspirational impulses. She became a cub reporter for the British tabloids at age 15, then established a career in magazine reporting before publishing A Woman of Substance in 1976, the first of many wildly popular reads. Reverent and often rhapsodic, Dudgeon probes Bradford's plots and characters, dissecting passages with the intensity of a literary critic as he scans for threads that connect art and life. An enjoyable opening scene at Bradford's Sutton Place digs conjures a milieu as mesmerizing as the subject's own fictional settings. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 420 pages - 978-0-00-716569-8
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4668-6270-8
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