Katie Mulholland, the young scullery maid at a grand house, finds her life thrown into a tailspin when she is assaulted by her employer on the night of his engagement ball.
I have an inexplicable love of old mass market paperbacks – especially pulpy books that originally sold for about a dollar that I never heard of before. So when my friend informed me that my local bookstore had an entire subterranean secondhand section, I obviously set off in search of most obscure, yellowing books I could find.
Katie Mulholland reminded me a lot of two more well-known family sagas – A Woman of Substance, for the main characters’ similar backgrounds, and The Thorn Birds for all the absurd tragedies befell this family. But Katie’s story brings into play the interesting themes of generational trauma, though it’s of course not termed such, with Katie’s rape coming to affect even her great-grandchildrens’ lives. I also enjoyed the vivid writing and the ways in which Cookson ensures we see how complex every character is.
However, the amount of incest in this book shocked me – surely everyone didn’t have to be attracted to their cousins? The number of babies conceived through a single act of intercourse was also somewhat shocking. There’s so many unlikely things happening for the sake of drama that it began to make my suspension of disbelief flag. I also felt less invested in the couples that came after Katie and Andree, maybe because less time was spent developing their characters and relationships.