This treasure trove of talent is set against the background of places already familiar to Catherine Cookson's countless readers - the North-East, the South Coast and London, with a time-scale stretching from the 1920's to the present day. In the title story, a disillusioned husband decides to call on an office colleague he has always slightly despised, and finds himself having to re-evaluate his own family relationships in the light of what he discovers in the other's home. In the three stories that make up 'The Forbidden Word', the first set in the 1920s, the second in the 1950s and the third in the 1980s, Catherine Cookson traces the changes in attitudes to marriage and pregnancy that have taken place in the last eighty years. In other stories a shy bachelor begins to make friends for the first time in his life among the people who like himself have taken refuge from the Blitz in the London Underground, and a much put-upon young woman who makes up her own mind to escape from her family's domestic exploitation of her. The reader catches a glimpse behind the scenes in a large department store, and learns of the havoc that a husband's passion for cricket can cause.
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.