11/04/2007

The Tinner's Daughter (by Rosemary Aitken)

'The Tinner's Daughter' is a novel set in Cornwall around the turn of the 20th century, written by Rosemary Aitken - an author I had not previously come across.

The story is about Carrie, the much-loved only daughter of a tin miner and his hardworking wife. We first meet her in her early teens, when she's about to leave school and take her first job, in service as a kitchenmaid. Life is hard, but on the whole Carrie is contented, despite lack of money, few possessions, and sometimes harsh conditions.

As she grows up young men start to court her, and inevitably she marries, has a child, and suffers bereavement and more hardship. Yes, it's one of those 'Catherine Cookson' type of novels; when I realised this, after a few chapters, I wondered if I would bother to continue. I understand that life was appalling for many people a century ago, but I read in the evenings for relaxation and entertainment. However, I continued, and am glad I did. There aren't the horrific details of some books in this genre, although the unpleasant side of life certainly isn't glossed over. Carrie remains optimistic even when life crashes around her; moreover she always knows she is loved by her family, and has some good friends she can trust. The sordidness and poverty of life is compensated for, somewhat, in the closeness of family and neighbourhood ties.

The style of writing is confident and the plot moves forward at the right kind of pace without great excitement or suspense, but with sufficient to hold my interest over a busy week. The author is clearly comfortable in a Cornish setting, and the background of mining (tinning and claying) as well as the use of mild dialect seem natural rather than researched.

So it was interesting as a bit of social history, enjoyable as a novel, and a reasonably enjoyable light read.

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