cover image The Year of the Virgins

The Year of the Virgins

Catherine Cookson. Simon & Schuster, $21.5 (269pp) ISBN 978-0-671-89650-8

Hatred and duty and their effect on an English family in 1960 are the themes of Cookson's 14th novel (after The Maltese Angel). Ill-matched Daniel and Winifred Coulson have become enemies. Their children--Stephen, the retarded eldest; Joe, the adopted family rock; Donald, the youngest--all show the scars. Daniel, who has discreet affairs, has begun to consider leaving his miserable marriage for Maggie, the family cook. He has meddled in his sons' lives to get Donald away from Winifred's possessiveness, finagling a match between lovely Annette and Donald that culminates in marriage. All this hurts Joe, whose conflicting loves for the girl and for his brother are becoming nearly too much to bear. Then the newlyweds have a terrible accident leading to tragic consequences that render Winifred insane, and she plots a grisly revenge on her daughter-in-law. Cookson adeptly paints a stark, psychologically realistic portrait of the disintegration of the Coulson clan. The only flaw is the surprise of Winifred's violence, which doesn't quite follow from her characterization. A somber, affecting story for the author's large audience. (Apr.)