Cover image for The brass dolphin
The brass dolphin
Trollope, Joanna.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Viking, 1999.

Physical Description:
320 pages : maps ; 23 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



With her bestselling novels about the emotional dynamics of family life, Joanna Trollope has garnered devoted fans in England and the United States. Her sensitive and unerring portraits have earned her rave reviews. Now she brings her memorable characters and complex family dramas to the first of several historical novels that Viking will publish--The Brass Dolphin, a rich, complex, and wonderfully engaging love story set amid the drama of World War II.It is 1938 and a young woman and her father are faced with financial disaster. With the loss of their home imminent, Lila Cunningham and her father have no choice but to accept the offer of a house in Malta. It is on this hot, ancient island, in the magnificent but crumbling Villa Zonda, that Lila must face the fears and devastation of impending war and learns both to overcome that fear and, in so doing, the value of true love.Both harrowing and romantic, The Brass Dolphin combines the best of Joanna Trollope's keen and complex portrayal of the human condition with her ability to describe the passion and suffering in a dramatic corner of Europe during World War II.

Author Notes

Joanna Trollope was born in Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England on December 9, 1943. She graduated from Oxford University. She worked on Chinese affairs in the Foreign Office in London for two years, and then became a teacher. In 1980, she became a full-time author.

Her first books to be published were a number of historical novels written under the pen name Caroline Harvey. These were followed by Britannia's Daughters: Women of the British Empire, a historical study of women in the British Empire. The Choir was her first contemporary novel. Her other works include A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector's Wife, Girl from the South, The Soldier's Wife, and Balancing Act. She was appointed OBE in the 1996 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

(Bowker Author Biography) Joanna Trollope is a descendant of Anthony Trollope & a #1 bestselling author in England. Her ten novels include "Marrying the Mistress", "Other People's Children", & "The Best of Friends", "A Spanish Lover", "The Choir", & "The Rector's Wife" which were both adapted for Masterpiece Theatre; & writing as Caroline Harvey, the historical novels "The Brass Dolphin" & "Legacy of Love". She lives in London & Gloucestershire, England.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

From a popular author comes the first volume in a projected series of historical novels. This one spans the years 1938 to 1945 and introduces a delightful young woman who comes of age during the war. When 20-year-old Lila Cunningham learns that she and her impractical artist father face financial ruin in England, she reluctantly accepts the offer of a home (owned by her elderly employers) on the island of Malta. As life in the once grand but now dilapidated Villa Zonda unfolds, Lila takes a job with a British count and falls in love with Anton, one of his nephews, whose charm and wealth seem to promise her all the culture and comfort she always dreamed of. But during the long bombing campaign that Hitler wages against the Maltese in retaliation for their allegiance to Britain, Lila learns that appearances are deceptive. She finally comes to accept the unqualified devotion of Maltese native Angelo. This quintessential gentle read harkens back to the books of Elizabeth Cadell and D. E. Stevenson. --Nancy Pearl

Publisher's Weekly Review

As readers might surmise, even when she writes under a pseudonym and chooses an exotic setting, Trollope is not one to succumb to the conventions of a standard romantic novel. In this first of her historical novels to be published here, Trollope/Harvey allows the complexities of human nature to influence a credibly bittersweet ending. In 1938, when 20-year-old Lila CunninghamÄfrustrated by her poverty-stricken life in a small English town near the North SeaÄlearns that her cheerfully feckless father has lost their house to the bank, she appeals for guidance to the elderly, childless Perriams, a couple who employ her as a research assistant. The Perriams seize upon a solution: Lila and her father will become caretakers of Villa Zonda, a house they own on Malta. After an arduous sea voyage, the Cunninghams discover that the dilapidated mansion is brimming over with a large, exuberant peasant family. Also to her surprise, Lila is pursued, quietly and steadily, by a young Maltese schoolmaster, Angelo Saliba. But Lila has eyes only for the two dashing nephews of snobbish Count Julius Tabia, though she knows that the titled family will never fully accept her as a wife for either of them. The advent of WWII forces Lila to move beyond dreams to action. Under the tutelage of Miss de Vere, a formidable presence in the English-speaking community, she works at a hospital caring for the wounded; at Villa Zonda, she scrapes together meals and grows ever closer to Carmela, the ambitious, English-speaking young daughter of the peasant family. But a part of Lila still clings to her romantic dreams, and only after a series of deaths and a postwar trip to a victorious Britain does she realize she is truly independentÄand, most surprising of all, content. Trollope's compelling and perfectly paced story is capped off with a satisfyingly realistic and ambiguous conclusion. (Sept.) FYI: This is the first of Trollope's Caroline Harvey novels, all previously published in the U.K., to be issued here. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Turning away from contemporary fiction (Other People's Children), Trollope as Caroline Harvey introduces the first novel in her new historical series. During World War II, Lila Cunningham, a na‹ve young English heroine, comes to terms with the gap between the life she dreams of having and reality. The novel opens in 1938 as Lila faces financial ruin because of her father's recklessness. The Perriams, scholars who employ her but are more like grandparents to her, force Lila to accept a house, the beautiful but tattered Villa Zonda, on the island of Malta. When she and her father arrive, Lila is introduced to the class-based culture of the Maltese and falls in love with the wealthy and snobbish Ferroferrata brothers. The prospect of marriage helps Lila survive the war. As the Maltese discover their sense of nationality at the end of the war, Lila realizes that everything she wanted and loved is just an illusion. Trollope creates memorable characters while capturing the fear, suffering, and devastation of Nazi raids on Malta. Recommended for all public libraries. [For a different kind of novel set in Malta during World War II, see Nicholas Rinaldi's The Jukebox Queen of Malta (LJ 5/1/99).ÄEd.]ÄAmanda Fung, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.