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Cookson County

Rosalind Mitchison, 27 June 1991

The Hanging Tree 
by Allan Massie.
Heinemann, 346 pp., £13.99, November 1990, 0 434 45301 3
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Tiberius: The Memoirs of the Emperor 
by Allan Massie.
Hodder, 256 pp., £13.95, January 1991, 0 340 48788 7
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The Gillyflors 
by Catherine Cookson.
Bantam, 366 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 593 01726 9
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... both conditions. ‘The men all so good for nothing and hardly any women at all’ was the core of Catherine Morland’s distaste for history in Northanger Abbey. Historical fiction does something to redress the gender bias, but little to improve the moral quality of the male personalities. It wouldn’t make for a good story if it did. But those wanting to ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers, 22 March 2001

... and Matthew Kneale slipped to seventh place, behind Anita Shreve, Jack Higgins, Paul Eddy and Catherine Cookson, without sales falling off too dramatically, as a respectable 1366 units of English Passengers left the shelves. Perhaps in future paperbacks should think twice before proclaiming themselves ‘The No.1 Bestseller’: ‘Second only to ...

The Cookson Story

Stefan Collini: The British Working Class, 13 December 2001

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes 
by Jonathan Rose.
Yale, 534 pp., £29.95, June 2001, 0 300 08886 8
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... of the poor and unknown intersect with the life stories of the rich and famous, Rose strikes gold. Catherine McMullen was the daughter of a washerwoman who had been in the workhouse. A chance reference in a popular romance led her to make her first visit to a public library in order to see for herself what the book referred to was like. Improbably, she was ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... and women readers both, the attraction of women’s life stories, whether the subject is Catherine Cookson or Marianne Faithfull, Margaret Thatcher or Sylvia Plath, is possibility. As Phyllis Rose rightly states, the urgent question in telling – or reading – women’s lives, is: ‘How fully could a woman live?’ Asking the question is ...


Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... stop off in the Lane en route for Garrick Street, or Paddington. To the novice bookman with only a Catherine Cookson and a Roland Barthes between him and the workhouse this was indeed a stirring image of literary success. Gissing would have loved it. Now and then, of course, one pondered the doubtful morality of these Friday expeditions. After all, these ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... environment’ (£5000)? Or a work ‘which reflects the essential qualities of the work of Catherine Cookson’ (£10,000)? Or even ‘a distinguished contribution to folklore studies’ (£50 and an engraved goblet)? Could one book (give or take a few adjustments) win all four of these awards? Perhaps, perhaps. If it did, the author would surely ...


Jenny Diski: A Looking-Glass Land of Sorts, 23 February 1995

... suicide attempts and kitchen renovation. I wonder if the whole saga isn’t cribbed from a Catherine Cookson novel, but, of course, it’s just the regular family narrative. ‘What kind of novels do you write?’ she wants to know. I don’t know the answer to this question, though once, in the States, when I answered ‘fictional’, my ...

Not Just Anybody

Terry Eagleton: ‘The Limits of Critique’, 5 January 2017

The Limits of Critique 
by Rita Felski.
Chicago, 238 pp., £17, October 2015, 978 0 226 29403 2
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... criticism, however, have traditionally needed to distinguish themselves from those who read Catherine Cookson on the train, even if the emergence of cultural studies means that the two spheres now increasingly interlock. Literary scholarship used to be one way of drawing the line, as was the critic’s claim to be endowed with a more than usually ...

Dentists? No Way

Naoise Dolan, 7 January 2021

As You Were 
by Elaine Feeney.
Harvill Secker, 392 pp., £14.99, August 2020, 978 1 78730 163 4
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... a child, Sinéad preferred her own company, and the company-not-company of books: Maeve Binchy, Catherine Cookson, Oscar Wilde and more daring authors, such as Edna O’Brien, who were on her father’s ‘forbidden list’. She lost her taste for reading as an adult because she ‘couldn’t concentrate on other people’s stories’, but she ...

Royal Bodies

Hilary Mantel, 21 February 2013

... of being looked at’. Another that the portrait might pass muster as the cover of a Catherine Cookson novel: an opinion I find thought-provoking, as Cookson’s simple tales of poor women extricating themselves from adverse circumstances were for twenty years, according to the Public Lending Right ...

Former Lovers

Michael Mason, 6 September 1984

The Bourgeois Experience. Victoria to Freud Vol. I: Education of the Senses 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 608 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 19 503352 3
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Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd 
by Polly Longsworth.
Farrar, Straus, 449 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 374 10716 5
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The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds 
edited by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hutchinson, 319 pp., £14.95, May 1984, 0 09 154170 0
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... but the suggestion is always in the wings that better experiences with women (Symonds’s wife Catherine was frigid) might have diverted him into heterosexuality (Symonds represents himself as a homosexual who is prepared to accept indefinite postponement of consummation, but as a husband whose need for ‘sexual outlet’ leads to unwanted pregnancy ...

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