A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Kirkus Star


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It takes well over 700 dog-trot pages to track the rise of Emma Harte from a starving turn-of-the-century Yorkshire waif to empress of multinational, multimillion enterprises in Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Emma first appears in her 1968 splendor as she faces two crises: she must foil a take-over plot by four of her five children; and she must resolve her life-long hatred of the old, genteel Fairlie family, whose young heir wants to marry Emma's favorite granddaughter. But before Emma handles this double whammy, Bradford takes us into a Brobdingnagian flashback: it's 1904, and 14-year-old Emma is an ill-treated skivvy at the dreary Fairlie mansion while Mam is dying and Dad can hardly support Emma and her two brothers. In spite of some cruel goings-on at the Fairlies, Emma eventually improves her lot; and then handsome Edwin Fairlie falls in love with her, but cannot bring himself to marry beneath his station--even after Emma has announced her pregnancy. In steel-plated fury, our Emma decamps for Leeds and begins the steady, triumphant march to riches and Revenge--via dressmaking, baking, small shops, big and bigger shops, factories. (It's easy when you have beauty, brains, and Motive.) Along the way are good friends and three husbands--one nice dull spouse killed in the Great War, another worthless and divorced, and the last adored but tragically killed off. And Emma pounds down the Fairlies in grand style, wiping out their wealth and literally pulling down Fairlie Hall stone by stone. Back in 1968 Emma shows she's a tough mother but a loving grandmother, and, after some ancient mysteries are finally unravelled, she buries the Harte-Fairlie feud. A long, easy ride requiring little more from the reader than the muscle to lift the book: lean back and leave the drive to Emma.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday