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4.8 out of 5 stars269
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 2 November 2000
This was another masterpiece by Martina. I stumbled on her first book Ladykiller about 6 years ago and haven't looked back since! All of her books are gripping from the first page to the last and are easy to follow and an enjoyable read. Goodnight Lady was fantastic and a sad but true portrayal of life in the early 1900's. She has a fantastic imagination and the ability to make you feel that you are actually there, her attention to detail is amazing. People tend to forget the hardships of east end families in the 1900's and this book although disturbing in places, is a very good portrayal. A truly enjoyable read. If you like this book you had better start ordering the rest. I have passed this book around to all of my family and friends and can honestly say it was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
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on 5 August 2001
This is the second Martina Cole novel I have read, the first being 'Two Women'. I could not put the first one down and I could not put his one down. It begins in the slums in the early 1900's and portrays the sad and disturbing lives that many had to endure during these times. It spans almost a century and is superb throughout. I really felt like I knew the characters and it was wonderful seeing the rise of the main character, Briony Cavanagh. It is disturbing in places but unfortunately is a true account of what has occurred in this country in the last century. The storyline had me gripped until the very last page. The only downfall was the 'tough identical twins' which, in my opinion, was almost a carbon copy of the Krays. However this did not overshadow the book as a whole which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.
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This was one hell of a read. Unlike Martina's latest work her earlier books are epic reads often spanning many decades and containing many stories within one book. A lot of authors today in this genre are named as 'The Next Martina Cole' or 'As Good As Martina Cole' and whilst they write good books, they are often very short and usually only contain one or two major stories, Martina's earlier work contains much more. Her stories are full of rich history, detailed characters and you have no trouble losing yourself in the worlds she creates. Perhaps it is just modern publishing and the fact that not everybody enjoys long books (my version of this book was 821 pages long).

The story centers around Briony Cavanagh, sold to a rich man when she is thirteen by her family. When the pedophile that bought her impregnates her, his wife and himself take on the child giving Briony money which she then uses to become a madam and eventually one of the most feared women in the East End. That story alone and the years that follow would be enough for one book, but Martina doesn't do things by halves (pre-2008) and the story continues on and on until we meet 'The Twins', two brothers who become the two most feared people in the East End, sound familiar?

Martina always creates fantastic characters and despite many people saying she churns out the same old rubbish: she writes about similar things with each book so similarities are obviously going to be drawn but for me the characters she creates are always 'new' to me and I have no trouble separating them from other books and seeing them as completely new, different characters. I can see this being one of my favourite Martina novels, it is definitely one of her best. An absolutely epic read that the current authors of this genre would find hard to beat. The only one I reckon could come close is Jessie Keane, a fantastic author and in fact her book Nameless is one such book which spans many decades and encompasses many stories in one. Do not miss this if you are a fan of this genre.
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My mum lent me this when I was staying at hers and having finished Sniper One (see other review) in two days I was stuck for something to read. Not my usual choice, but I found it enjoyable and it is now my guilty secret.

The Cavanaghs were a large family of Irish immigrants struggling in London's East End at the turn of the century. When the no-good drunkard father is offered two pounds a week for the "services" of his eldest daughter by the wealthy Henry Dumas he readily agrees. On reaching puberty, Eileen is callously discarded and her younger sister, the ambitious Briony, seizes her chance for a shot at the good life and takes her place with the reluctant consent of her mother. She unfortunately becomes pregnant and with nowhere to turn, she accepts Isabel Dumas' offer to take the son as her own in exchange for Briony's silence, the house and a large allowance. Meeting and falling for the Artful Dodger-type Tommy Lane changes things and using her windfall, they go into business opening their own bordello (not bad for a pair of teenagers...)

The rest of the book deals with Briony and her family as they go from strength to strength though the path is rocky, violent and controversial. Eileen never recovers from her stolen childhood and dies in childbirth leaving "madam" Briony to bring up her boys Daniel and Boysie (aka Ronnie and Reggie) with devastating consequences. Throughout this, she carries the burden of giving up her only son, but he is never far from her mind.

Quite an epic novel, it reads like a female Jeffrey Archer, the story spanning almost a century though the first world war is strangely omitted and the second lightly glossed over. More contemporary references may have given it extra credibility and a better time-line and some of the cockney dialogue is cheesey enough to make an Eastenders scriptwriter wince. The plot does stretch credibility at times, but overall it's quite a good read and next time I'm stuck for a read at my mum's I'll check out her other Martina Coles. Just don't tell anyone.... :o)
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on 19 November 2011
I cannot rate this book highly enough. For all the pages it has (you could choke a donkey with this book - much to the dismay of the RSPCA!), you'd think you'd get bored or even tired reading it - wrong.
The book follows the life of Briony Cavanagh (a p*ss poor child from a family of wrong'uns)and her many siblings. They are born in a small home, that's cold, lacks food and warmth and a father who'd rather sell his own daughter to a whore house than go and do what's right - until someone takes matters into their own hands and does what they deem necessary to protect his flawed mentality towards his children from destroying them totally.

It's amongst such devestating poverty that Briony makes a decsion that will impact her life forever. With an attitude as fierce as her flaming red hair, she sets about turning the very dog-eared and tattered cards she's been dealt in life into a positive for herself and all her family.
Her mother, annoyed with her daughter's ill-gotton gains never stops telling Briony just how disappointed she is with the way her life has turned out - but it's due to only get worse thanks to a one Mr Henry Dumas (and his overbearing wife).
Once he has turned her life upside down at such a tender age, we see Briony grow up again into a child who is far more mature than her real age. The prose often allows you to forget just how young Briony really is. Poverty taught Briony many lessons and she is not interested in making do and 'just getting by'. The book is told across many generations and Martina leaves no stone unturned as we see each character be explored and unravelled. One thing that's great about Martina is she writes about what she knows - and it is SO EVIDENT in this book. I have become as dependent on these books as my coffee in the morning. And can usually be found most mornings at Victoria coach station with a searing hot Starbucks in one hand and a f**k-off sized Martina cole book in the other. I begin jittering and suffer from with drawal syptoms if I don't have a book in my hands - this feeling is worse when it's a Martina book I'm reading. I've read reviews of Martina's books where people get angry at her descriptions or for being too descriptive - if you do not like that sort of thing, you will not like this book. Each character in this book is VERY well rounded - you get the feeling that these people are real in some respects, as you being to understand their motives for the things that they do, good, bad or indifferent. You don't get the feeling that she's just trying to make up her word count. I think the era that the book is first set in NEEDED to be descriptive enough for the reader to get a feel for the book. This book is like a more contemporary-written saga. It has a bit of everything, love, stacks of humour, racial inequality,social inequality, gender inequality and a kick-ass heroine in the shape of a short, emerald eyed red head with a potty mouth and a penchant for putting her mother in her place (and loving a somewhat flawed but oh-so-lovable Mr Tommy Lane).

This is definately one of the better of Martina's books (I always measure this by how many stops I end up missing on the Tube ride home after work - I got all the way to Stratford before I realised I was even still on the train!)

I don't think that there is ANYTHING wrong with this book, other than the fact that it ended :(
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on 29 March 2006
This is not my favourite Cole book, but I have read it more than once! This one starts in the twenties and continues through to almost the present day. The usual grit, drama, and graphic detail and telling the tales of how life's events have a funny way of panning out. As usual, the central character is a strong female, who starts life in the slums. She is forced into child prostitution and claws herself and her family out of the slums and gives them all a better life.
This novel is not only a great piece of fiction, but also a bit of an insight into the lives of the 'lower classes' during the 20s, 30s and to the present day.
A great read and another must have for all Cole's fans!
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on 22 November 2012
Wonderful, fast paced novel by this author. Big book but you're so engrossed that it skips by. I like this author's books as they are nearly all set around the area of London where I lived as a child. Her novels tend to be gritty, tough, graphically real but fast reads. I knew without a doubt that I would enjoy this book until the last page.

Back Cover Blurb:
The infamous Briony Cavanagh: quite a beauty in her day, and powerful, too. In the sixties, she ran a string of the most notorious brothels in the East End of London.
Patronised by peers and politicians - even royalty, some said. Only Briony knew what went on behind those thick velvet curtains, those discreet closed doors, and Briony never opened her mouth - unless she stood to benefit.
Only Briony knew the hard and painful road she'd travelled to get there. From an impoverished childhood that ended abruptly with shocking betrayal, she had schemed and manipulated, determined to be mistress of her own fate.
But her flourishing business brought her into contact with the darker side of life at the violent heart of London's gangland. Along with her material success came risk and danger.
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on 13 May 2011
Never having read this author, I checked out reviews before buying. The few negative ones were a bit off putting but this author's overwhelming popularity decided me. I have not regretted the decision. Despite the very unpleasant child sex abuse theme, the whole sweep of the narrative resulted in a marvellous piece of storytelling. What more need a novel provide! We all love stories and this a gripping one. Unlike a couple of reviewers, I did like the lead character. I wouldn't have expected her to develop in softer ways, given her early life experiences and her sense of resposibility to her family~Scarlett O'Hara springs to mind. The gang stuff was brutal and the Kray twins seem to have coloured the exploits of the O'Malley/Cavanagh twins but so what. The periods covered seemed well researched with only a few niggles. Will read more Martina Cole. She is a storyteller.
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on 31 December 2014
This is my second Martina Cole book that I've read. Martina Cole is an incredible writer she really has a gift at telling gripping and heartwetching stories. I enjoyed reading this book as each character was well develop there was room for every character in the story. Which is good as the other characters didn't seem overshadow by the main character Brioney. It only took me nine days to read it as I was totally lost in the story lol. However, the only negative aspects of this book for me is that some parts could have been explain more in detail I don't want to spoil it for anyone that hasn't read it so I won't say what parts. Also the swearing at times was just OTT made some points quite uncomfortable. Neverthless, this book is still worth reading I highly recommend it to everyone as it's a great book despite it's faults.
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on 10 January 1999
Martina Cole has done it again! Like her other books she has managed to capture the reader in the life of the character and making it a book you can't put down. If you enjoyed this story you should certainly read all the other Martina Cole books. Most enjoyable!
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