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Catherine Cookson is one of the most popular and most read English authors of all time, with more than 100 million books sold. She didn't begin writing until she was in her forties, doing so as a form of therapy after a miscarriage and subsequent mental breakdown. Her writing was informed by personal experience, but Cookson was also at heart both a feminist and a socialist. Although many critics, particularly male ones, put down her work as nothing more than romance fiction, in reality she addressed profound social issues that impacted the poor working class in Britain during the beginning of the 20th century. These conditions had a particular impact on women. Cookson was able to write authoritatively because she herself experienced extreme poverty and hardship as a child, yet through hard work and determination was able to take an alternative path in life.

Her personal story is retold in countless variations through her novels. Although she did write several autobiographies and books specifically about her own life, each Cookson novel replicates the tale of a heroine who is disadvantaged in some way by the circumstances of her birth and goes on to succeed through hard work and personal conviction. Although Cookson wrote her first story at the age of 11, she did not embrace writing as a career until she was in her 40s, and it wasn't until some ten years later that she finally began to enjoy the financial benefits.

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