The Black Velvet Gown

The Black Velvet Gown

by Catherine Cookson

There would be times when Riah Millican came to regret that her husband had learned to read and write, and then shared his knowledge with her and their children. For this was Durham in the 1830's, when employers tended to regard the spread of education with suspicion. But now Seth Millican was dead and she was a widow with the need to find a home and a living for herself and her children.The chance of becoming a housekeeper didn't work out, but it led to Moor House and a scholarly recluse obsessed with that very book learning that could open so many doors and yet create so many problems; especially with her daughter, Biddy, who was not only bright, but witful...THE BLACK VELVET GOWN is the story of a mother and daughter, often at odds with each other, facing the need to challenge and fight the prejudice of an agea narrative of great power and diversity that is one of Catherine Cookson's major achievements.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Historical
  • Rating: 4.00
  • Pages: 356
  • Publish Date: May 1st 1989 by Summit Books
  • Isbn10: 0671682539
  • Isbn13: 9780671682538

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Riah is a young 1830s widow who finds that the fact she's been taught to read and write is more of a hindrance than a help.

Mr Miller her employer tells Riah that he wishes to teach her children. It relates to the 'Black Velvet Gown' given to Riah by Miller. Riah tells Miller that she is going to take the children away from him. Davey leaves home and finds work safely away from Moor House. Since Riah's daughter is blissfully unaware of the sorrowful events and sees Miller as a fatherly figure, a mentor. Riah's need to protect her daughter Biddy from the horrors of the house,drives a wedge between the pair. All biddy sees though her innocent eyes is that her mentor was attacked by her angry brother and that her mother fathers Davey above her.

I absolutely loved this book, and I really didn't expect to. No, nothing sweeping or epic happens--none of the characters change the world. They felt like real people with real struggles, and for that I adore this book.

As far as I can see, the incident over the black velvet gown, has everything to do with Riahs relationship with her eldest son Davey, and very little to do with Biddy. Somehow, through it all, Ms. Cooksons writing is so clear, and the relationships she describes are so vivid and grounded in reality, that I dont think anyone reading this will be confused.

It had an interesting enough start beginning with a woman named Maria and her four children. The last half of the novel is about Maria's daughter, Biddy, who at this point is educated and according to the "gentry" and their servants, doesn't know her "place." As she enters the laundry service at a larger estate up the road, readers see how badly educated lower class people were treated. At this point, it is a war between upper and lower class and educated versus uneducated.

But then Riah sent Biddy to work in a laundry of a great house where she continues her passion for books which will bring her a lot of pain and troubles.

I can only think that it was such a good story that when I read the intro on the back of the book I had to have the book in question. Was quite a few years ago that I first read this story when I was on a camping trip and it made my holiday so much better having a good book to lose myself in.

First time I have read Catherine Cookson.

Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, who Catherine believed was her older sister.