The day Joe Remington brought his new bride to Fell Rise, he had already sensed she might not settle easily into his home just outside the Tyneside town of Fellburn. Making plain her disapproval of Joe's familiarity with the servants, questioning the donation of food to striking miners' families - these objections and more soon rubbed Joe and the local people up the wrong way, a problem he could easily have done without. For this was 1926, the year of the General Strike, the effects of which would nowhere be felt more acutely than in this heartland of the North-East.
Then when Elaine became pregnant, she saw it as a disaster and only the willingness of her unmarried sister Betty to come an see her through her confinement made it bearable. But in the long run, would Betty's presence only serve to widen the rift between husband and wife, or would she help to bring about a reconciliation?
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many best-selling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.