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The woman who presented herself at the offices of the respectable firm of London solicitors was, the receptionist decided, clearly a vagrant who had been sleeping on the streets. The clothes that hung on her frail body were filthy, and she seemed unable to speak. When she asked to see the firm's senior partner, Alexander Armstrong, she was at first shown the door - but when Mr Armstrong learned the name of his visitor, all the office staff were amazed at his reaction. For Irene Baindor was a woman with a past, and her emergence from obscurity was to signal the unravelling of a mystery that had baffled the lawyer for twenty-six years. What Irene - the silent lady of the title - had been doing, and where she had been, gradually emerged over the following weeks as Armstrong met the unlikely benefactors who had befriended her and helped her to build a useful and satisfying life in a sheltered environment. Now, at last, she was able to confront her tortured and violent past and find great happiness and contentment with the help of old friends and some newer ones.
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
Catherine Cookson's millions of fans will be delighted at the publication of one last title from their idol but at the same time saddened that this posthumous novel marks the end of the long career which has delighted them for so long. They certainly won't be disappointed by this gripping book. Beginning in 1955 before flashing back to the early years of the 20th century, this is the story of Irene Baindor, who turns up at her solicitor's 26 years after she disappeared, still wearing the coat and hat she was last seen in. We learn that Irene was, in her youth, an accomplished singer who became the second wife of the wealthy, sadistic Edward Baindor. Having given her husband the son he craved, Irene was so viciously attacked by Edward that she became mute and disappeared without trace. The book traces Irene's life as a vagrant before she is 'adopted' by Bella Morgan, a larger-than-life stallholder. Finally, a strange train of events leads to the coincidence which brings Irene back after so long. Of course Catherine Cookson is a master storyteller and the book is written in her familiar, meticulously detailed style. Period detail is accurately recreated and characters such as the tragic Irene and strong, compassionate Bella are well rounded and convincing. Particularly moving is Cookson's dedication, a long introduction explaining how she came to write The Silent Lady during her final illness. Having believed that she had written her last book, she found the entire story came to her fully formed, like a gift. It is a gift that will be much appreciated by her readers. (Kirkus UK)
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