Simon & Schuster, Jan 2004, 25.00, 304 pp.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Fifteen Streets are filled with the hopeless poor with no expectations to escape the foulness of these slums. In this enervating world, an energetic innocent like Kate Hannigan has no chance for survival. To escape her abusive father, teenage Kate listened to the sweet con of John Herrington. When she becomes pregnant he drops her as yesterday's trash.
Feeling a need to help the impoverished, wealthy Dr. Rodney Prince provides medical care to the residents of the Fifteen Streets. He helps Kate give birth and though she insists she prefers to die, he senses an inner strength and intelligence that makes her superior to her neighbors. As Rodney further compares lower class Kate to his blue-blooded hedonistic wife, Stella, he finds his upper crust sophisticated spouse lacking. Rodney wants to assist Kate and her out of wedlock daughter escape from the Fifteen Streets, but soon needs the two females as much as they need him as love blossoms between them.
Though in some ways this novel feels antiquated as society has become more accepting of single mothers and intolerant towards irresponsible fathers, fans of the late great Catherine Cookson will enjoy this reprint. The story line provides a comparative look at the extremes of Edwardian England through the eyes of Rodney who has feet in both societies. Kate and Rodney are delightful protagonists, but Stella is so shallow she makes Hal seem like Mother Teresa. Still few authors can describe poverty any better than Ms. Cookson has and those of her fans who have not already will seek Annie's story told in KATE HANNIGAN'S GIRL.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner