Barbara Taylor Bradford
Barbara Taylor Bradford, OBE (born 10 May 1933) is a best-selling English novelist. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. It ranks as one of the top-ten bestselling novels of all-time. To date, she has written 27 novels — all bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Bradford was born in Leeds, England, where she grew up in the Leeds suburb of Upper Armley. She was the only child of Freda and Winston Taylor, and it was her mother who instilled in her the love of books and reading. Barbara attended the Christ Church, C of E School (where she was in the same class as Alan Bennett) and Northcote School for Girls. Determined to become a writer, Bradford went to work at the Yorkshire Evening Post when she was sixteen. After a few months as a typist she was moved to the news room, where she became a junior reporter. Several years later she was made women’s page editor. In London, she was the fashion editor of Woman's Own Magazine, then became a feature writer on the London Evening News. After a number of years in journalism, Barbara wrote A Woman of Substance and became a full-time novelist.
Her first novel, A Woman of Substance, became an enduring best-seller and according to Reuters, it ranks as one of the top-ten best-selling novels of all time. A Woman Of Substance has been followed by 27 others – all best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic. Bradford's books have sold more than 89 million copies worldwide in more than 90 countries and 40 languages. Ten of her books have been made into television mini-series and television movies, produced by her husband, Robert Bradford.
Recurring Plotlines and Common Themes
Some of Bradford's novels follow a common pattern. A young woman of humble background rises in business through years of hard work, often involving enormous self-sacrifice. Occasionally an older man enters the picture as a mentor or a husband, though the relationship is rarely a passionate one. Love and marriage generally play little or no role until the heroine is a powerful, established and a wealthy figure in her chosen field. The regrets and second chances of post-forty life for successful women provide some of her thematic issues.
Bradford has denied that her heroines fit the common stereotype of the sexually voracious and predatory Cougar. But she suggests throughout her work that powerful, successful women are entitled to the companionship of younger men. Her tales of May–December romance dramatically illustrate the point that an older woman is often more than a match for a vigorous and athletic younger man. Bradford's heroines seldom cling, and are never ruled by emotion.
As powerful, successful women in the modern world, Bradford's heroines are not bound by conventional gender roles. They often pursue younger men aggressively, and marry younger husbands whom they support lavishly and who may or may not take a subordinate role in the relationship.
Barbara Taylor Bradford was born in Leeds in 1933, to Freda and Winston Taylor. Before Taylor Bradford's birth, her parents had had a son, Vivian, who died of meningitis. She would later describe her mother as having "...put all her frustrated love into me." Taylor Bradford's father was an engineer, and had lost his leg serving in the First World War. Taylor Bradford would later fictionalise her parent's marriage in her 1986 novel, An Act of Will. Fellow Yorkshire writer Alan Bennett attended the same nursery school as Taylor Bradford in the Leeds suburb of Upper Armley. As a child during World War II Taylor Bradford held a jumble sale at her school, and donated the £2 proceeds to the 'Aid to Russia' fund. She later recived a handwritten letter from Clementine Churchill.
Taylor Bradford's biographer, Piers Dudgeon, uncovered evidence that her mother, Freda, was the illegitimate daughter of the Marquess of Ripon, a local Yorkshire aristocrat. Taylor Bradford's grandmother had worked as a servant for the Marquess. Dudgeon told Taylor Bradford that her grandmother had had three children by the Marquess, and after some hesitation, she allowed Dudgeon to publish the book. Though Taylor Bradford was initially angry at Dudgeon's discovery, she later said that "...I came round. There's no stigma now." Taylor Bradford's grandmother would later spend time in a workhouse. Taylor Bradford would later explore the workhouses of her ancestors in the ITV television series, Secrets of the Workhouse which broadcast in 2013.
Taylor Bradford met her husband, the American film producer Robert Bradford, on a blind date in 1961 after being introduced by the English screenwriter Jack Davies. They married on Christmas Eve in 1963, and Taylor Bradford moved to the United States with him. Taylor Bradford has been an American citizen since 1992. The couple live in New York City. Taylor Bradford and her husband never had children, though she suffered two miscarriages.
Taylor Bradford decided to be a writer at the age of 12 after she sent a story to a magazine. She was paid 7s 6d for the story, with which she bought handkerchiefs and a green vase for her parents. Taylor Bradford left school at 15, and after a spell in the typing pool of the Yorkshire Evening Post, she became a reporter for the newspaper. As a reporter at the post, Taylor Bradford sat alongside Keith Waterhouse. Taylor Bradford moved to London at the age of 20 as the fashion editor of Woman's Own magazine, and would later work as a columnist on the London Evening News. Taylor Bradford later had a column on interior decoration that was syndicated to 183 newspapers. Taylor Bradford's first efforts at fiction writing were with four suspense novels, which she later abandoned. Taylor Bradford would subsequently describe "interviewing herself", saying that "I was in my late thirties. I thought: what if I get to 55, and I've never written a novel? I'm going to hate myself. I'm going to be one of those bitter, unfulfilled writers."
In December 2013, Bradford auctioned 40 pieces of jewellery that had been given to her by her husband at Bonhams in London. Taylor Bradford donated the money raised from the auction of her jewellery to two relatives in England.
Taylor Bradford has been awarded honorary doctorate from Leeds University, the University of Bradford, and Post University in Connecticut. Taylor Bradford was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list for her contributions to literature. Her original manuscripts are archived at the Brotherton Library at Leeds University.
In her youth Taylor Bradford read Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy, and the French novelist and performer Colette. Taylor Bradford regards the Irish historian and author Cornelius Ryan as her literary mentor, Ryan encouraged her writing and was the first person other than her mother that Taylor Bradford told she wanted to be a novelist. Her favourite contemporary authors are P. D. James, Bernard Cornwell and Ruth Rendell.
Taylor Bradford's wealth has been estimated at between £166-174 million. Her wealth has fed two persistent rumours, that she owns 2,000 pairs of shoes, and that the lake in her former house in Connecticut was heated for the benefit of her swans. Taylor Bradford addressed the rumours in a 2011 interview, tracing the shoes rumour to a joke, and the heated lake to the fact that the previous owners of the house had installed it.
Five of her television adaptations were re-released on DVD in the UK in September 2008 by Acorn Media UK. These are A Woman of Substance; Hold The Dream; To Be The Best; Act of Will and Voice of the Heart. A Woman Of Substance, Hold The Dream and To Be The Best were reissued on DVD by Acorn Media in the US in May 2012.
- The Emma Harte Saga
- A Woman of Substance (1979)
- Hold the Dream (1985)
- To Be the Best (1988)
- Emma's Secret (2003)
- Unexpected Blessings (2005)
- Just Rewards (2005)
- Breaking the Rules (2009)
- The Ravenscar Trilogy
- The Ravenscar Dynasty (2006)
- Heirs of Ravenscar (2007) (published as The Heir in U.S.)
- Being Elizabeth (2008)
- Other fiction
- Act of Will (1986)
- The Woman in His Life (1990)
- Remember (1991)
- Angel (1993)
- Voice of the Heart (1983)
- Everything to Gain (1994)
- Dangerous to Know (1995)
- Love in Another Town (1995)
- Her Own Rules (1996)
- A Secret Affair (1996)
- Power of a Woman (1997)
- A Sudden Change of Heart (1999)
- Where You Belong (2000)
- The Triumph of Katie Byrne (2001)
- Three Weeks in Paris (2002)
- Playing the Game (2010)
- Letter From a Stranger (2011)
- Secrets From the Past (2013)
- Cavendon Hall (2014)
- A Garland of Children's Verse (1960)
- The Dictionary of 1001 Famous People: Outstanding Personages In the World of Science, the Arts, Music and Literature (with Samuel Nisenson, 1966)
- Etiquette to Please Him (How to be the Perfect Wife Series) (1969)
- Bradford's Living Romantically Every Day (2002)
- Interior design
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Homemaking Ideas (1968)
- Easy Steps to Successful Decorating (Illustrated) (1971)
- How to Solve Your Decorating Problems (1976)
- Making Space Grow (1979)
- Luxury Designs for Apartment Living (1983)
- Children's religious writing
- Children's Stories of Jesus from the New Testament (1966)
- Children's stories of the Bible from the Old Testament (1966)
- Children's Stories of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments (1968)
- "Barbara Taylor Bradford on BBC HARDtalk". Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- Rachel Cooke (8 October 2006). "You can never be too rich". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Angela Wintle (15 March 2013). "My Family Values - Barbara Taylor Bradford". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Jessica Slater (22 October 2009). "The World of Barbara Taylor Bradford". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Ben Dowell (17 June 2013). "Barbara Taylor Bradford: Fifty Shades of Grey is "not even sexy"". The Radio Times. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Barbara Taylor Bradford (22 December 2013). "Barbara Taylor Bradford: my golden husband". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "Barbara's Biography - Random House". Random House. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
- "Bonhams Presents Selected Jewels from the Collection of Barbara Taylor Bradford". Bonhams. December 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Simon Cable (25 September 2013). "Author Barbara Taylor Bradford sells £1.5m of jewels to turn two of her relatives into women of substance". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- "Booky Ramblings Interviews Barbara Taylor Bradford". Blogspot. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Sophie Morris (25 September 2006). "My Mentor: Barbara Taylor Bradford on Cornelius Ryan". The Independent. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
- Joe Knipe (20 July 2010). "The 10 highest-earning women in the UK". This Is Money. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- Marianne Macdonald (20 July 1997). "The BTB Effect". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- Katie Jarvis (11 October 2011). "Cotswold Character: Barbara Taylor Bradford". Cotswold Life. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- Official website
- Barbara Taylor Bradford's blog
- Works by Barbara Taylor Bradford on Open Library at the Internet Archive
- Barbara Taylor Bradford at the Internet Book List
- Works by or about Barbara Taylor Bradford in libraries (WorldCat catalog)