A Beginner’s Guide to Cookson Dramas

As we’re lavishing you with lots of Catherine Cookson, here’s a guide to help you keep track of the sagas in store.

Catherine Cookson

THE GLASS VIRGIN

Imagine discovering that everything in your life has been a lie. That's what happens to Annabella, a young woman raised as a kind of pampered recluse by her posh parents, only to realise mummy and daddy have been lying to her about almost everything. Dark revelations and sudden violence turn her into a fugitive, but luckily she has a guardian angel in the form of an Irishman played by a young and rather swoon-inducing Brendan Coyle.

THE ROUND TOWER

Cookson takes on the deep class divisions of the 20th Century with this turbulent tale of a couple determined to rise through society. Vanessa is the young, beautiful woman whose shocking fling with an older man leaves her pregnant, while Angus is the ravenously ambitious rough diamond who marries her and embarks on quest for wealth and status. Can they make their lofty dreams come true?

THE WINGLESS BIRD

The Wingless Bird begins in a quaintly Dickensian sweet shop where the lovely Agnes works. But all is not well. She has to deal with her petty bullying father, and she attracts the devotion of an aristocratic gentleman whose family are appalled at his fancy for a mere shop girl. Add to that a second, more tragic admirer, and the outbreak of World War One, and you have one of Cookson's most tear-jerking sagas.

THE TIDE OF LIFE

A sort of Cookson-ified take on Jane Eyre, this riveting saga follows housekeeper Emily as a series of startling events lead her to work on an estate run by the brooding and mysterious Larry Birch - a man burdened by a witch-like wife and shady past. All kinds of torrid Bronte-like adventures ensue, but is Birch destined to be the making of Emily or her undoing?

COLOUR BLIND

A white woman marries a black man in Tyneside in 1915, and the social shocks will reverberate right down to the next generation in this sweeping story of bravery and bigotry. The original, boundary-breaking couple are gripping to watch as they try to overcome the hostility of almost everyone around them, but it's when their mixed-race daughter grows to womanhood that Colour Blind turns into a truly unforgettable romance.

THE GIRL

A poor, illegitimate girl who is left in the home of her apparent father and his vengeful, hostile wife? That's about as Cookson-ish a set-up as you can imagine, and things get even more emotional as we follow Hannah, sneeringly referred to as "the girl", as she's married off to an unsuitable man and has to somehow forge her destiny against the odds. Will she succeed?

THE CINDER PATH

THE CINDER PATH

This is one of the most famous Cookson sagas, partly because it features a certain young star-in-the-making called Catherine Zeta-Jones. She's wickedly brilliant as a rich, selfish man-eater who marries a sweet local farmer who is then dispatched to the trenches of the Great War - where a murderous secret from his past returns to haunt him. But will he find much-needed solace in the arms of his wife's sister?

THE FIFTEEN STREETS

THE FIFTEEN STREETS

Gang fights, religious mysticism, love against the odds, and a swaggeringly charismatic Sean Bean are the ingredients which make The Fifteen Streets a real feast of a saga. The actual plot is too sprawling and multi-layered to condense into a few words, but it's essentially a tangled family saga with a touch of West Side Story and Dallas, set in the north of England. Unmissable.

THE SECRET

THE SECRET

A bona fide thriller, The Secret throws us into mystery and intrigue from the very first second and barely lets up. Colin Buchanan - of Dalziel and Pascoe fame - is former smuggler Freddie Musgrave, who has to investigate the re-appearance of stolen gemstones while also trying to protect the woman he loves from a seriously dodgy suitor. Violence, action and psychological games await in this darkly riveting tale.

THE DWELLING PLACE

THE DWELLING PLACE

When teenage girl Cissie Brodie is left orphaned and in charge of her young siblings, she is determined to keep them out of the hellish Victorian workhouses. Even if that literally means living in a cave. From this unlikely opening, one of Cookson's most controversial tales unfolds - the choices she makes, and her complex relationships with two very different men, will keep you thinking long after the final credits roll.

THE GAMBLING MAN

THE GAMBLING MAN

Robson Green's brand of cheeky charm is deployed to great effect as he plays the poker-playing chancer in this great Cookson tale. This is no lighthearted romp, though, because as he gets increasingly hooked on gambling he's led to make terrible choices which threaten to destroy his seemingly happy life. And his relationship with his female boss may complicate things even further...