Cover image for The wingless bird
The wingless bird
Cookson, Catherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Summit Books, 1991.
General Note:
"Originally published in Great Britain by Bantam Press"--T.p. verso.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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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 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

``Life was unfair to women,'' thinks Agnes Conway, Cookson's latest naive but indomitable and likable turn-of-the-century heroine whose options seem to be a marriage of convenience or bitter spinsterhood. Agnes, the elder and not-so-pretty daughter of a prospering northern England shopkeeper, faces the bleak probability of inheriting the shop while her sister Jessie is privileged to attend secretarial school. When the well-born Farrier brothers, Charles and Reginald, encounter Agnes in the shop, all of their lives are changed. The declared love of Charles (later Reginald's as well) gives Agnes the courage to defy many societal conventions. She confronts her abusive and philandering father, faces the snobbish disapproval of the elder Farriers and helps the hapless Jessie when she becomes pregnant by a seemingly unsuitable fellow from the lower working class. Once again setting a satisfying love story about a valorous woman into an historical frame, Cookson ( The Black Candle ) here views British class structures, particularly those of women, as they are changed by WW I. Doubleday Book Club alternate. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved