Cover image for The silent lady : a novel
The silent lady : a novel
Cookson, Catherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [2001]

Physical Description:
351 pages ; 24 cm
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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Catherine Cookson was one of the world's most beloved writers. Her books have sold millions of copies, and her characters and their stories have captured the imagination of readers around the globe. She passed away in 1998, but luckily for her fans, Cookson left behind several unpublished novels, among them the compelling Silent Lady. The story begins with a shocking revelation, delivered by a disheveled woman who presents herself at the offices of a respectable law firm in London. At first the receptionist suspects this mysterious woman is a vagrant; the clothes that hang on her frail body are filthy, and she seems unable to speak. When the woman requests to see the firm's senior partner, Alexander Armstrong, she is shown the door -- but when Mr. Armstrong learns the name of his visitor, all the office staff is amazed by his reaction. For Irene Baindor is a woman with a past, and her emergence from obscurity signals the unraveling of a mystery that had baffled the lawyer for twenty-six years. To those around her, Irene Baindor had been a young woman of class and musical talent, the wife of a wealthy and powerful man, and the mother to a beloved baby boy. But behind closed doors she was a woman with a dangerous husband, a husband who would one day act with such cruelty that Irene would be left without most of her voice and memory. It was then that Irene disappeared. What Irene had been doing, and where she had been, gradually emerges over the following weeks, as the unlikely benefactors who had befriended her step forward to reveal the remarkable life she has led. Fans of Cookson's novels, with their larger themes of romantic love and class conflict, will be delightedby the mystery and surprise of The Silent Lady. Drawing from her own firsthand experience of working-class life between two world wars and in the 1950s, Cookson once again displays the irresistible plotting, scene-setting, and characterization that have made her an icon of historical and romance fiction.

Author Notes

Catherine Cookson, 1906 - 1998 British writer Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, Co. Durham. She was born illegitimate and into poverty with a mother who was, at times, an alcoholic and violent. From the age of thirteen, Catherine suffered from hereditary hemorrhage telangiectasia. She also believed, for many years, that she was abandoned as a baby and that her mother was actually her older sister.

Catherine wrote her first short story, "The Wild Irish Girl," at the age of eleven and sent it to the South Shields Gazette, which sent it back in three days. She left school at the age of thirteen to work as a maid for the rich and powerful. It was then that she saw the great class barrier inside their society. From working in a laundry, she saved enough money to open an apartment hotel in Hastings. Schoolmaster, Tom Cookson, was one of her tenants and became her husband in 1940. She suffered several miscarriages and became depressed so she began writing to help her recovery.

Catherine has written over ninety novels and, under the pseudonym of Catherine Marchant, she wrote three different series of books, which included the Bill Bailey, the Mary Ann, and the Mallen series. Her first book, "Kate Hannigan" (1950), tells the partly autobiographical story of a working-class girl becoming pregnant by an upper-middle class man. The baby is raised by Kate's parents and the child believes them to be her real parents and that Kate is her sister. Many of her novels are set in 19th century England and tell of poverty in such settings as mines, shipyards and farms. Her characters usually cross the class barrier by means of education.

Catherine received the Freedom of the Borough of South Shields and the Royal Society of Literature's award for the Best Regional Novel of the year. The Variety Club of Great Britain named her Writer of the Year and she was voted Personality of the North-East. She received an honorary degree from the University of Newcastle and was made Dame in 1933.

Just shortly before her ninety-second birthday, on June 11, 1998, Catherine died in her home near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. "Kate Hannigan's Girl" (1999), was published posthumously and continues the story of her first novel.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bella Morgan had known hardship all her life until she inherited the house of her former employer. She made a passable living selling second-and third-rate fruit from a stall in front of her home and employed and boarded two men to help her out. One day, the men find something under a heap of old fruit boxes that will change their lives forever--a vagrant woman dressed in expensive but dirty clothes, finery not usually seen in their poor London neighborhood. She becomes even more mysterious as they discover that she's nearly mute, terrified of men, and refuses to remove any of her clothing--especially her stained, heavy coat. Judging that she came from money, Bella is certain that family or friends will soon come looking for her--or will they? Published posthumously, this is venerable British novelist Cookson's final story. Set in the first half of the twentieth century and based upon her own experiences, The Silent Lady is a sweet, heartwarming novel about people rallying against seemingly insurmountable pasts. --Alexandra Shrake

Publisher's Weekly Review

No one gets to die in publishing anymore instead, the dead just keep pumping out new books. The latest posthumously published novel from Cookson (Kate Hannigan's Girl, etc.) takes place in England between the wars and after. When a woman shows up at the law offices of Alexander Armstrong in 1955, dressed in tatters and barely able to speak, she's nearly shown the door. But when Armstrong learns the woman is Irene Baindor, she's treated differently. Apparently, Armstrong's been searching for Irene, who disappeared following a violent quarrel with her repressive and abusive husband, for over a quarter of a century. Now here she is, wearing the same garments she had on when last seen and carrying a package she won't let go of. Where has Irene been? And will she see her son again before she dies? Irene, the eponymous heroine, may be silent, but everyone else here talks too much, chiefly Armstrong, who expostulates on Irene's past for nearly a whole chapter without interruption; Bella, the fruit seller with a heart of gold who befriends Irene, can also natter a chapter away with nary an interruption. Neither the reunion nor the confrontation that come at the end will surprise anyone. Only time will tell how many more unpublished books Cookson left behind. Let's hope that at least some of them are better than this. Agent, Anthony Sheil. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cookson died in 1998, but you would hardly know it; she left behind several manuscripts for us to remember her by. This one features a bag lady who is nearly ejected from a London attorney's office until a senior partner recognizes her as a woman he has been hunting for 26 years. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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