Catherine Cookson is known and loved for her vibrant and earthy novels set in and around the North-East of England, past and present. Her autobiography makes plain how it is she knows her background and her characters so well.
The Our Kate of the title is not Catherine Cookson, but her mother, around whom the autobiography revolves. Despite her faults, Kate emerges a warm and loveable human figure.
Our Kate is an honest statement about living with hardship and poverty, seen through the eyes of a highly sensitive child and woman, whose zest for life and unquenchable sense of humour won through to make Catherine Cookson the warm, engaging and human writer she is today.
If Mrs. Cookson's autobiography strikes you as embarrassing in its strenuous recital of lifetime grudges, remember that not only has the British author's real-rags-to-considerable-comfort career been translated into an immensely saleable product, but also there's no doubt she had something to complain about. Born into poverty, the illegitimate daughter of "our Kate," a mistreated but loving girl with a drinking problem, Mrs. Cookson, like many of her heroines, inched her way upward after a childhood of taunts, humiliations and trips to the pub. With a formidable determination she worked at menial jobs, became a laundry manager, took in boarders, and finally married the saintly Mr. Cookson. Her writing - and how she struggled for self-taught schooling! - began in middle age and it was only then, after bouts with physical and mental illness, that she was able to view compassionately, and with some objectivity, her relationship with her mother who lived long enough to witness her daughter's success. It's all the fevered and harried unburdening of a self-made woman who has never taken her fists away from her face for the larger view. But those attuned to Mrs. Cookson's latest novel, The Dwelling Place (p. 127) will want to read this. (Kirkus Reviews)