Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
on 3 May 2014
It's many years since I read a Cookson novel but I had some idea of what to expect - brave and beautiful protagonist struggles against poverty and great odds to achieve eventual happiness. My grandmother was a Jarrow lass and contemporary with Catherine Cookson and the stories she told of her own childhood bear out Cookson's fictionalised accounts of grinding poverty, desperation and the ever-present fear of losing ones job and ones home with absolutely no safety net.
In 'Katie Mulholland', however, I felt the author was in competition with herself to see how many Awful Things she could make happen to one character! Rape, unwanted pregnancy, wife-beating, murder, miscarriage of justice, corruption, false imprisonment, eviction and homelessness, incest, unrequited love - this book has it all and more.
I kept reading because I was bemused by the piles of ordure being heaped on the wretched Katie and wondering how on earth she could emerge for a satisfactory conclusion. Unfortunately, by the time I was two-thirds of the way through, I'd ceased to care and would have been happy enough to see Katie and the rest of the cast put aboard the Titanic and sent to the bottom of the ocean. Alas, the writer chose not to include that disaster in this saga of misfortune! By the time I got to the end of the book, I thoroughly disliked most of the characters - the words manipulative, scheming, complacent and smug all have an application here. I felt the ending was far from satisfactory although that, at least, reflects real life.
I've given it three stars because of the writer's skill in bringing to life a set of personalities and a way of living which is almost impossible for a modern audience to comprehend and for her evocation of Tyneside speech patterns which bring back many personal happy memories.