Few authors can have had a life as traumatic as Dame Catherine Cookson. Very few can so heroically have overcome such trauma - though the riches and success she achieved came at much personal cost. Her recent death allows at last a full and frank account of her life. One of the best-selling novelists in the world, Catherine Cookson's story is as dramatic as any of her novels. Born in 1906, the illegitimate daughter of a domestic servant, she was brought up on Tyneside in one of the poorest communities of the western world. Her mother once begged barefoot from door to door and they lived in constant fear of the workhouse. Catherine's childhood was marred by violence, abuse, alcoholism, shame and guilt. But Catherine was determined to escape her situation and with enormous courage and determination made her way out of the slums of her childhood. Later, after a severe nervous breakdown and a tragic series of stillbirths and miscarriages, she attempted to'write it all out'. 'The Catherine Cookson Novel' became a new literary genre and all of her 97 novels are still in print. But despite the prodigious achievement, she was still haunted by the failure of her relationship with her mother and riven by religious doubts. Her legendary success and her immense generosity are contrasted with a fuller and darker picture of her life. In writing this biography, many of Catherine Cookson's friends have been willing to talk to the author. But even more importantly, Kathleen Jones has had access to early drafts of Catherine Cookson's own autobiography, hitherto unseen, and hours of privately taped conversation in which she discusses much that she chose after all not to reveal during her lifetime - her tortured feelings for her mother, her mental torment and terrors, and her intense and devastating relationship with Nan Smith - who almost succeeded in wrecking Catherine's marriage to Tom.
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