Book Tuesday: Catherine Cookson

Welcome to your weekly dose of authors, books, stories and general mulch concerning books!

Dame Catherine Cookson, DBE (27 June 1906 – 11 June 1998) was an English author. She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers. Her books were inspired by her deprived youth in South Tyneside, North East England, the setting for her novels.

This week, I am focussing on Catherine Cookson, an incredible historical novelist whom I have enjoyed reading for many years.  Her books have encouraged my love for the cultures found in rural North England, following the interwoven family sagas set in tiny villages and towns.  Generations have passed through her talented fingers, spilling out tales of deception, intrigue, murder and of course, romance. 

  My favourite book out of her collection would have to be The Dwelling Place.  Set in a mining village, Cissie Brodie has to raise her brothers and sisters on her own after her parents suddenly die.  Fearing they would be separated, and without a large sum of money to pay for accommodation, she sets forth across the barren land and finds a cave fit for turning into a home for her family.  Tongues are set wagging when a local carpenter takes an interest in helping her family out, even though he is promised to the miller’s daughter.  The web slowly tangles as Cissie is attacked by the local lord’s son and daughter and she falls pregnant.  

The strength and resilience shown by Cissie throughout the book makes you fall in love with her character. Her love for her family makes her sacrifice her own child to save her sister from a jail sentence for theft. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but I would recommend it as a worthy read.  I first read The Dwelling Place when I was a teenager and recently caught the BBC drama adaption of the story.  If you haven’t read the book, it is a very good version of the story.  Personally, I felt their characterisation of Cissie and her siblings rather insipid in comparison to the book. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

 It is the sadness and innate human qualities of each character that bring Dame Catherine Cookson’s stories to life.  Whilst researching her life for this piece, I found out her history with the small northern towns, growing up under the care of her grandparents and mother (whom she thought was her sister).  Dame Catherine had her fair share of work in service, which gave her a good perspective of life as a servant.  At the age of 34, she married Tom Cookson, a school teacher.  Sadly, she was unable to have children due to a vascular disease that caused severe bleeding and anemia. In later life, after making her millions from the sales of her wonderful books, she donated money to numerous causes close to her heart, one of them being the illness she suffered from called telangiectasia. 

Dame Catherine Cookson died at the age of 91.  Her legacy lives on through the foundations she set up for writers, hospitals and research facilities.  Her generosity knew no limits and I would like to think that she would be a good role model for young women.  From humble beginnings, she built herself up through strength, courage and natural talent.  I can see where her characters get their passion from and that teaches me, as a writer,to look for characteristics within to breathe life into my characters on paper.  

I hope you enjoyed my brief overview of a wonderful author.  Thank you for reading.

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