My 40 secrets to a happy life: BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD, OBE

My 40 secrets to a happy life: BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD, OBE

My 40 secrets to a happy life: Novelist BARBRA TAYLOR BRADFORD, 90, shares her wealth of wisdom including why ‘it’s a woman who makes a marriage work’

  • The novelist warns against arguing in public or belittling the person you love
  • READ MORE:  Want to save your marriage? Stop phubbing your husband!


On the eve of my wedding 50 years ago, my mother gave me advice that proved invaluable: ‘It’s a woman who makes a marriage work.’ She was right.

Accept that sex changes over time. We don’t keep that urgent rush of passion of our 20s and 30s. Sexual desire and romantic love slowly become this wonderful caring about each other.

It’s silly to quibble over who picks up a pair of underpants. If you love someone, just do it.

Be careful when you argue. As a writer I know that words can hurt. I always edited myself before words left my lips. Arguments are inevitable, but avoid having them in public or belittling the person you love in front of others.

Another piece of advice from my mother, which she gave me just after I married, was, ‘You don’t catch flies with vinegar; you catch flies with honey.’ Again, she was right.

Novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, 90, lives by the Noël Coward quote, ‘I find work more fun than fun’

My husband Bob died in 2019 and his last words to me were, ‘I love you.’ I’m so glad that I told him, ‘I love you, too, darling.’ Remember to tell your partner you love them.


Don’t think you know how to invest without help because you probably don’t. It’s better to pay someone the commission and know you’re getting expert advice.

Always carry cash. Even in today’s contactless environment, you just never know when you might need it.


There are times when even the best partner in the world isn’t quite what a girl needs. My husband Bob was my rock but my close girlfriends are my cornerstones. I cannot imagine what life would be like without them.

A best girlfriend is so important, someone who is as happy talking about a new dress or a change of lipstick as they are discussing the big stuff – relationships, careers and families.

I don’t believe in this vast thing called the sisterhood, but I do believe you can have really good female friends.


Always keep the boxes your jewellery comes in. If you choose to sell, having the original box can help date a piece of jewellery and can also add value.

When travelling, I leave most of my valuable jewellery at home. It’s less stressful that way. I also like to mix valuable pieces with costume jewellery. Only those in the know can tell which is which.

Barbara with her late husband, Bob, a film producer. On the eve of Barbara’s wedding 50 years ago, her mother told her: ‘It’s a woman who makes a marriage work’

If you have a jewellery collection, catalogue it regularly. It gives you peace of mind and ensures you keep track of all your pieces.


My mother taught me the most important lessons about shopping for clothes – at Marshall & Snelgrove in Leeds: buy shoes in the afternoon (by then your feet have swollen a little, so you can make sure they fit); and always take someone who will tell you honestly what an outfit looks like from behind.

Buy well but buy less. I worked as a women’s editor and used to attend all the Paris shows. That helped me appreciate good design and quality. I have pieces in my wardrobe that are 50 years old and are as good as new because I look after them.

A black handbag works for every occasion and a silver bag can add glamour to the plainest of outfits.

A good handbag makes a strong statement. I have a number of Hermès bags that I love and are timeless in style. I would never go on a waiting list for one, though.


I was the only woman in a newsroom in my first job, when I was just 16. My mother told me, ‘Keep your head down and don’t flirt at work. Your attitude towards men will dictate their attitude towards you.’ It’s the best advice I’ve ever had.

Don’t cry at the first hint of criticism. If I had worn my heart on my sleeve I would not have achieved what I have today.

Don’t fritter time away on social media, where people are so bored they deliberately start arguments with one another. I have far more important and enjoyable things to do.

I live by the Noël Coward quote, ‘I find work more fun than fun.’ My other adage is Churchill’s: ‘KBO – keep buggering on!’

Barbara says  good handbag makes a strong statement. She has a number of Hermès bags (pictured) that she loves and are timeless in style



She always has a pen and notepad handy

Never start a book until you know how it’s going to end.

Character is what drives everything forward. Character is plot.

There is a lot of snobbery in publishing. Ignore it. Critics can say whatever they want – I just look at my book sales.

Always have a pen and notepad in your bag. Book ideas come to me all the time – and I always write them down.

Writing is discipline. You can’t write a book without putting in the hours at your desk. For many years I got up and started writing at 6am so I could hit my deadline.


I’ve never missed a doctor’s or a dentist’s appointment because the saying is true: your health is your wealth.

Barbara feels instantly presentable when she applies lipstick

Some women go to bed in their make-up because they don’t want their partner to see them without it. I cleanse my face every night without fail.

I always have a lipstick in my bag. I never leave my home in New York without putting it on. It makes me instantly presentable.

Stay out of the sun. I’ve done so all my life and have hardly any wrinkles as a result. My dermatologist recently remarked that I had fabulous skin. It made my day.

Always carry sunglasses. They hide a multitude of sins.

I go twice a week to the hairdresser’s. The actress Joan Crawford once said, ‘The most important thing a woman can have – next to talent – is her hairdresser.’ I completely agree.


On my travels, I’ve packed and unpacked suitcases multiple times. Pack shoes first, putting them around the bottom of the case in cloth bags, leaving the centre for clothes. I’ve found it the most efficient way.

Fish and chips are always a good idea. Just remember the malt vinegar on the side!

Hair rollers are a lifesaver if you can’t get to a hairdresser. I always pack a few.

A smile always helps in new places.


Grief never goes away. It stays with you but you learn to live with it.

Work helps. My writing got me through it. I found solace in familiar characters.

Nobody wants a weeping widow on their shoulder. They want conversation and a few laughs. There is always room for compassion.

  • The Wonder of it All by Barbara Taylor Bradford is published by HarperCollins, £20* 

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