cover image The Parson's Daughter

The Parson's Daughter

Catherine Cookson. Summit Books, $19.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-63293-9

Veteran storyteller Cookson (The Bannaman Legacy, The Moth once again captures the stratified society of Northumberland in the late 19th century. When the local pastor's daughter, tomboyish Nancy Ann Howard, attracts the master of the manor, Dennison Harpcore, their unlikely, cross-class marriage sets off a chain of events that irrevocably changes the lives and social position of many in the community. Harpcore, notorious for wenching and gambling, is for a time transformed by the virginal object of his desire. Nancy Ann, for her part, once the novelty of wealth loses its charm, matures through personal adversity, loss of innocence and Harpcore's suicide. Nancy Ann's fate is tied to those of three men, the last of whom will bring her what she finally recognizes as happiness. The Cookson way with a long, intricately woven narrative compensates for sketchiness of characterization, particularly of the male characters. As usual, readers will be absorbed by her evocation of the social landscape of late 19th century England. Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild alternate. (May 25)