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The Woman of Substance: The Life and Work of Barbara Taylor Bradford Hardcover – 21 Feb 2005

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This enthralling biography is full of details fans will crave... No less gripping than one of her blockbusters. -- Mail-on-Sunday You Magazine. March 6, 2005

About the Author

Piers Dudgeon is a writer, ediitor and photographer. Born in 1949, he worked for ten years as a publisher in London before starting his own company and developing books with authors as diverse as John Fowles, Ted Hughes, Daphne du Maurier, Catherine Cookson, Peter Ackroyd and Susan Hill. In 1993, he moved from London to a village on the North Yorkshire moors. He has written ten works of non-fiction, including the no. 1 bestselling biography of Catherine Cookson, The Girl from Leam Lane, as well as feature articles for the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A tedious speculative biography 5 Feb. 2008
By Eunice - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is the kind that really sets my teeth on edge, and a self made achiever like Barbara Taylor Bradford deserves better.

To begin with Ms. Bradford's life and rise to becoming a wealthy best selling novelist is the stuff of dreams, and the kind of blockbuster film which used to star Joan Collins. You couldn't make it up!

From an impoverished childhood in West Yorkshire during WWII, going to work at 15 in the miserable 50's with rationing and shortages still existing, Ms. Bradford never seems to have put a foot wrong. She rose like a rocket through the newspaper ranks beginning as a typist and quickly progressing to fashion and women's interests reporter. Her job took her to the smart West End of London where she mingled with the rich and famous and apparently learned how to live as they do. Eventually she met and married a Hollywood executive producer and under his skillful management and promotion, became one of the world's best selling authors, without any graphic steamy sex in her novels. She is now extremely wealthy and lives in a large apartment in Manhattan - a very long way from a two-up two-down cottage in Leeds.

Why then do I dislike Piers Dudgeon's book? It is the close analysis of plots and characters in the novels, comparing them to incidents and people in Ms. Bradford's real life and the speculation that they were the basis of her fictional events, using lengthy passages quoted from the books as "proof". Not only is the constant speculation tedious, but it assumes that Ms. Bradford has no imagination whatsoever, and that everything in her books must be based on a real life person, place or thing. "could this possibly be ...?" "was this the model for ....?" "did this influence ....?" I have seen this nit picking done to death by Glynn Hughes with the Bronte sisters and it makes me want to scream "Go out and write your own book if you have any talent".

I was prompted to read the book because I am from the same area of the West Riding and grew up there at the same time as Ms. Bradford. I really take my hat off to her success, as they would say in Yorkshire: "Hasn't she done well!" The author seems to have fastened on her mother Freda's illegitimacy and a spell in the Ripon workhouse with her mother (Edith) and siblings, who were later transported to Australia as needy orphans and never seen again. Mr. Dudgeon strongly hints at the possiblity of the Marquess of Ripon being the father of Edith's children, although there is no proof, that does not stop him harping on, and on, and on. It would be interesting to see if any Walkers and Simpsons in Australia turn up claiming to be the missing cousins.

A Woman of Substance is in the tradition of the Northern Family Saga, a popular type of fiction relating the rise and fall of the families who made, and lost, fortunes in the Industrial North of England. There is a saying "From clogs back to clogs in three generations". The generational sagas are as distinct a style of fiction as are westerns, mystery and crime novels, romantic fiction and science fiction. They have even been parodied in TV series such as "Brass" and "Sam". Surprisingly, despite his tendency to attribute the fictional characters and situations to real people and places, Mr. Dudgeon never once refers to the any of the popular authors of these northern sagas: Dr. Phyllis Bentley, author of "The Crowthers of Bankdam", Winifred Holtby, "South Riding", and not forgetting the Bradford author, J.B. Priestly.

Barbara Taylor Bradford is said to have cooperated on this book. I can only assume that she did so as damage control, as without her cooperation who knows what Mr. Dudgeon may have come up with.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars for fans of the author 17 Nov. 2006
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This biography takes a close look at popular women's fiction novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, who has sold over seventy million books since her first novel, A Woman of Substance was issued in 1979. Ms. Bradford was born in Leeds over seven decades ago into a relatively modest background. Yet her mother, a nanny expected great things from her; pushing her to succeed way beyond the daughter of a laborer or a nanny. Ms. Bradford does quite well at Fleet Street before marrying Bob Bradford and taking New York by storm. A Woman of Substance is the acme of her success feeding a mass of sequels and TV shows. This is a fascinating biography aimed at readers who enjoy British romantic fiction. Though Ms. Bradford is an interesting author, her fictionalized characters take charge of her bio as Piers Dudgeon takes his audience on tours of locales used by Ms. Bradford in her novels and compares those to the writer's home locations especially as a child. With over fifty illustrations to augment the text, fans of the author will appreciate this fine homage while others will pass.

Harriet Klausner
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