Book review: The Ribbon Weaver by Rosie Goodwin

Not for nothing was Rosie Goodwin chosen to continue the romantic novel writing of the late and legendary Catherine Cookson.

Thursday, 9th December 2010, 6:00 am

Cookson’s estate gave the former social worker their permission to write sequels to three of the Tyneside author’s most famous trilogies and it was a task she was more than happy to undertake.

But the countryside around Nuneaton has always been the inspiration for Goodwin’s own home-grown novels and her latest captivating story is full of her trademark warmth and wisdom.

Steeped in Warwickshire’s history, Goodwin’s moving tale of a baby rescued from the snow and a wealthy family’s tragic secret brings to life the county’s hard-working people along with their trades and traditions.

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When lonely middle-aged widow Molly Earnshaw finds a young woman dying in a church doorway on a freezing night in 1830, it changes her life forever.

Buried deep inside a tapestry bag at the woman’s side is a newborn baby girl who awakens memories of Molly’s own stillborn babies.

Ribbon-weaver Molly takes the now motherless child under her wing, knowing that the only other alternative for the baby is the cold confines of the workhouse.

Amy Earnshaw, who grows up believing that Molly is her grandmother, is a special girl who possesses a rare beauty and a real talent for art and design.

Her happy childhood years are spent with kind-hearted Toby, the eldest son of Molly’s good friend and neighbour. He works in the local pit but dreams of being a teacher.

Amy too has big ambitions and when she lands a job with a famous chain of hat makers, her talents are soon recognised by the owner Samuel Forrester.

But Samuel is a haunted man with secrets in his past that torture both his wife and his family, and their son’s wife Eugenie is a troubled young woman obsessed with dangerous jealousies.

Just as Amy’s dreams seem to be coming true, more secrets are revealed and Amy is caught between two worlds.

While she worries over where her heart truly lies, there are others around her who would see her dead.

Goodwin is a master of her craft; she excels in writing about the complexity of relationships, the hardships of life, the ties of family and the joys of love and friendship.

The perfect book for a cold winter’s evening.

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)