Catherine Cookson · Classic English Literature.

The Harrogate Secret by Catherine Cookson.

A review (may contain spoilers.)

To be honest, I am not a big fan of Catherine Cookson books. The only other book I have read of hers is The Wingless Bird, and in the case of both books I only read them because they had lacklustre television adaptations with a plethora of indifferent actors in the melee.

The basic story of this book is about a boy who saves a baby from a house called the Towers in 1860s Newcastle. Years later, he has to face many home truths and secrets are revealed. The little girl he saved; Belle, grows up and falls in love with the sinister Marcel Birkstead whose life and fate is tied up with The Towers in many ways.

I tried reading it once before about six months ago but never finished it but I didn’t have the time. So, I endeavoured to read it presently. It is good enough, but somewhat predictable. There is an obvious difference between the hero, Freddie (shouldn’t he be an anti-hero?) and the villain, Marcel. But without that then there wouldn’t be a story. So there. You can feel Belle’s pain, terror and confusion as she is faced with Marcel’s facets of character, although the tv film of the book does it more vividly. For the role I think that Stephen Moyer (True Blood) did it well – putting across his dangerous personality while still showing his childlike behaviour and his strange dependence on his grandmother.

Well, the good points of the book? Hmmmm. Let me think.

Still thinking.

I’m not saying that it’s a rubbish or bad book. It was simple to read (if a little lengthy) and you always know that in the end, the girl will always get her hero no matter what. Lesley Pearse, Catherine Cookson et al will just be the sort of books you read after watching their adaptations which are usually aired in the channel YESTERDAY usually on a loop. (Even though LP books don’t have adaptations.)

But I’ll give the late Mrs Cookson credit for one thing. She certainly describes her setting (Newcastle) very vividly and her characters are mostly lower- and working class people. The wealthy people in her books are always shown in a less-than-flattering light. She had a tough upbringing herself and wasn’t just picking the setting out of her imagination. And her modern readers are now left with these stories – stark and vivid in their representation. And it will always be that way, no matter how many drama series are written by English and American scriptwriters who have an almost fanatic desire to represent the Rich and Poor through their rose-tinted windows.


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