Balancing Act is about a family run pottery business in Stoke-on-Trent. Trollope’s novels are character driven and focus on family relationships. I find her novels elegant and pleasant to read. In this one she explores work/life balance in a family business, with women as breadwinners and men as homemakers. When she was researching this book she visited Emma Bridgewater, a farmhouse kitchen pottery company that has knocked the ‘cups and saucers’ out of the market in the UK in terms of middle class popularity and in terms of being quintessentially British. In fact Emma claims some of those other companies now print just “England” on the bottom because they are actually made in China. Hers say “Made in England” and they are. In fact each piece is fashioned by hand and has the initials of the decorator painted on the bottom for a personal touch. The family in Balancing Act is not the Bridgewaters, but all of the detail about manufacturing pottery is.
Joanna Trollope interviewed Emma Bridgewater last week at my favourite London Marylebone bookstore and anyone with an £8 ticket could get a free glass of wine and 20% off at the Emma Bridgewater shop just down the street! What a deal! And I learned some things about spongeware, colour palettes, the challenges of design, and also got some insights from Trollope into the writing of the novel. Emma Bridgewater has become a writer herself. Pattern is a beautifully photographed coffee table book with descriptions and history of all of the designs created by her and her husband Matthew.