Saturday, December 24, 2011
'The Tinker's Girl' by Catherine Cookson
The story follows a 14 year old girl who is bright, intuitive and intelligent, and she goes to live on a poverty stricken farm to help the Shaleman while their mother is dying. It's a fascinating 'historical fiction' (the word romance is not used anywhere on the cover) novel, that is richly detailed and incredibly in depth look at the hard life these people led.
As well as being an historical novel, it is also a sign to me that there has always been a call for strong female characters. Taking an in depth look at the lives and loves of these people of different classes and viewpoints, Cookson also deconstructs the constraints placed on the women of the time, and breaks them down with love and compassion.
I genuinely had no idea what to expect. Certain memes and expectations were derailed and lead astray. The evil older brother who becomes a sailor - I was completely expecting him to be in any final showdowns as the hero or heroine struggles to protect those they love - yet it was not to be. I was genuinely hooked into this novel because it subverts so many things about romances and women's fiction that I just wanted to know what happens next!
Our heroine grows, and Cookson's writing is delicious as she keeps out attention focused on her, and we see the development in the voice of the novel as Jinnie develops. She is outspoken yet obedient, a responsible maid living in abject poverty with some contentment. She learns a lot about life, but she never takes a back seat to the events that unfold around her. I loved seeing the inner workings of the family she lives with, and I loved seeing the way Jinnie defines the woman she becomes.
This is a great read. I'll be looking out for more Cookson as I'm fascinated that it still felt fresh even after almost 30 years and it also made me look back at the way I construct my novels. Cookson's novel felt rough and wild by design, and it was a feeling I really found caught me, and kept me tugged along until finally I finished the book and could go to bed! Yay!
This book kept me up late to see how it ended, and I enjoyed every minute of it. My copy is falling apart - I may have to try and fine a new one yet. I can easily see myself building a collection of them, ready to go next to my Viking romances!