For seventeen-year-old Brid Stevens, the day began with such promise. At four o'clock on a summer morning, her alarm clock roused her from a dream-filled sleep, for she had an appointment to keep with Joe Lloyd, whom she had met at the weekly dance, on the cliff-top at Stockwell Hill overlooking the sea. Joe was not the usual sort to frequent the dance-hall, she thought, and he had made the prospect of their watching the sun come up more exciting than anything she could previously recall. And so it proved to be. But upon her return home, where she lived with her parents and her brother, all hell was let loose. Harry Palmer was also there, fresh from telling his tale of the lovers' tryst he said he had witnessed. Brid and Joe, he claimed, had spent the night together, there on the cliff-top.
In the afternoon, by previous arrangement, she made her way to the beach, from where she and Joe were to go swimming, but her arrival was to be in the aftermath of violence, for Joe, she discovered, had also suffered, this time at the hands of those who envied him. What was to occur after that would bring the day to a horrifying end, as family and friends of all concerned displayed their prejudices and made their own judgements.
The events of this powerful novel, set on the Northumbrian coast in the 1960s, take place over one day, a day during which everyone involved discovers that the consequences of an innocent meeting between two young people are far more significant than the event itself. The Bonny Dawn is a remarkable tour-de-force by Britain's most popular novelist.
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.