underrated the case for Catherine Cookson
Tuesday 20 June 1995
But this is simply not the case. Cookson has created a genre of her own, mainly through her choice of setting: Tyneside in Northern industrial England. Against the backdrop of local miseries such as mine accidents and the bombing of the Tyneside docks, she depicts social deprivation in all its coarseness. Her protagonists, usually illegitimate or otherwise disadvantaged, pit themselves against intractable class division, more often with painful than happy results. The supporting cast list, which is composed of snobbish aristocrats, hard-working proles, powerful matriarchs and innocents, perhaps provides what might be termed "the romantic element", but Cookson keeps them very much within the realms of realism, by ensuring that true-to-life, even the snobbish aristocrats experience their share of suffering. Nobody in Cookson's world has it easy, but some have it easier than others.
But that does not, surprisingly, mean she creates a melodramatic plot. Her books are just as likely to hinge on the simple, somewhat unepic, theme of a loveless marriage as on bombs dropping around a village, or rape. Take one of her new novels, Justice Is a Woman. A father tells his newly married son that it is irrelevant whether or not he loves his wife: "Let me tell you this, lad, liking's much more important in marriage than love, and you'll find that out."
The process of "finding that out," forms the main plot of the novel. Hardly a feel-good or sensational read. Actually, it's a bit discomforting - and the discomfort is made all the more relevant by the universality of her characters. In Justice, a married couple see from the window that they have visitors and, laughing together, immediately decide to position themselves so as to look busy when their guests arrive. It's a tiny, artless vignette, described in one paragraph which could so easily have been omitted. Yet it is details like this which lift Cookson out of the trash genre. The familiarity and naturalness of that gesture illustrate what is Cookson's most successful achievement as a writer. She has succeeded where so many others have failed, in persuading the reader that it is not her but her characters who are writing the story.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign