cover image The Wingless Bird

The Wingless Bird

Catherine Cookson. Summit Books, $19.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-66620-0

``Life was unfair to women,'' thinks Agnes Conway, Cookson's latest naive but indomitable and likable turn-of-the-century heroine whose options seem to be a marriage of convenience or bitter spinsterhood. Agnes, the elder and not-so-pretty daughter of a prospering northern England shopkeeper, faces the bleak probability of inheriting the shop while her sister Jessie is privileged to attend secretarial school. When the well-born Farrier brothers, Charles and Reginald, encounter Agnes in the shop, all of their lives are changed. The declared love of Charles (later Reginald's as well) gives Agnes the courage to defy many societal conventions. She confronts her abusive and philandering father, faces the snobbish disapproval of the elder Farriers and helps the hapless Jessie when she becomes pregnant by a seemingly unsuitable fellow from the lower working class. Once again setting a satisfying love story about a valorous woman into an historical frame, Cookson ( The Black Candle ) here views British class structures, particularly those of women, as they are changed by WW I. Doubleday Book Club alternate. (Apr.)