The archive of the novelist and Oxford alumna Joanna Trollope, generously donated to the Bodleian by Joanna herself between 2014 and 2021, has now been catalogued and is available to view at the Weston Library.
A prolific author of numerous best-sellers, Joanna first started out writing historical fiction in the 1970s whilst working as an English teacher. By 1980 – the year her novel Parson Harding’s Daughter was awarded the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by the Romantic Novelists’ Association – she had become a full-time author. Her only non-fiction title, Britannia’s Daughters, was published in 1983.
During the 1980s, Joanna’s writing evolved to contemporary fiction and The Rector’s Wife (1991) was her first number one bestseller. Her works have been translated into over twenty different languages as well as being adapted for audiobook, television, radio, and theatre. In 2010, Joanna was awarded the Romantic Novelists’ Association Lifetime Achievement Award. She was made an OBE in 1996 for services to charity and a CBE in 2019 for services to literature.
The undoubted highlights of the collection are the neatly-tied handwritten manuscript drafts of Joanna’s novels, ranging from her earliest work Eliza Stanhope (first published in 1978) right up to An Unsuitable Match (published in 2018). The collection also includes several notebooks demonstrating Joanna’s careful background research into the topics and places featured in her work, covering anything from football matches to inheritance tax. They bely the preconception that her characters are consigned to cosy, country lives but instead deal with some of the tougher elements of life – bereavement, adoption, sexuality, and self-harm. They also show how much Joanna’s work mirrors life in the 1990s and 2000s and in years to come the collection will be of much interest to any one researching (to paraphrase Joanna’s family’s famous Victorian author ) ‘the way we lived then’.