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Review of Whistledown Woman, a novel by Josephine Cox
I am reviewing the paperback version of the novel, ISBN 978-0747240815, 566 pages, published by Headline, cover price £6.99.
The tale begins in 1898. Rona Parrish is a gypsy. She left her Romany family to marry an 'outsider'. Rona, her husband and her new born baby are involved in an accident as they drive their horse and cart home from market. A horseman riding wildly, startles their horse and as a result the horse bolts. Rona's husband and baby are killed. After the funeral, Rona decides to take up the travelling life again. She has her brother's Romany caravan at hand as he had left it with her when he emigrated to America a few years earlier.
Rona sets off and in the meantime, Kathleen Wyman lies in labour with her second child at Bessington Hall, her husband Edward is certain that she has been unfaithful to him. Edward Wyman is a doctor, yet he does little to help his wife during the arduous labour. When things begin to go wrong, he orders a maid servant to go for help. As she runs from Bessington Hall the maid meets Rona who is in the area searching for fresh water. The maid implores Rona to come to Kathleen Wyman's aid.
The child is born with Rona's assistance and in his blind jealous rage, Edward Wyman gives away the baby to Rona Parrish. Kathleen Wyman is very ill but she is also aware that she has had her baby. When she is told that the child is dead, she becomes frenzied with grief, is soon after locked away in an asylum.
Rona continues on her journey with the baby in tow, the child was given to her wrapped in a shawl, which was fastened by a valuable brooch. Rona feels that this brooch is a clue to the baby's true origins, so hides it away.
She names her Starlena, after her own mother and raises the girl as her own.
Starlena grows up in ignorance of her true parentage and vast inheritance, believing her birthplace to be the beautiful Whistledown Valley. The pair tend to avoid company and mix only rarely with other gypsies.
Rona stays watchful over the years for any sign that someone might track Starlena down,as her gypsy instincts tell her that someone, somewhere, may wish her girl harm.
The novel can be purchased online from sites such as www.amazon.co.uk for as little as 0.01p for a used copy, or new from £2.00.
**About the Author**
Josephine Coxs' life reads almost like a novel. She was born in 1941 in a cotton-mill house in Blackburn, she was one of ten children. Her childhood was a hard one as the family faced tragedy and problems, yet Josephine Cox says that it was punctuated with fun, love and laughter.
At the tender age of sixteen, Josephine married, she and her husband, Ken, had two sons. When the boys started school, she decided to go to college and eventually gained a place at Cambridge University, though was unable to take this up as it would have meant living away from home.
However, she did go into teaching, while at the same time helping to renovate the derelict council house that was their home. During this period she was also coping with the problems caused by her mother's unhappy home life and writing her first full length novel.
Josephine's family secretly entered her for a competition around this time, which she won,
the 'Superwoman of Great Britain` Award'. The award coincided with her first novel being accepted for publication.
Josephine Cox has now given up teaching in order to write full time and has over 40 novels to her credit.
She now lives in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
A full bibliography can be found at the following link:-
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
I enjoyed this novel very much, I found the plot entertaining and fast moving, with believable and well drawn characters. The plot was a little far fetched in places, but this did not detract from my reading pleasure. The author richly described many aspects of gypsy life and the account of the Appleby Horse Fair was both entertaining and educational!
The plot has many twists and turns and I found the novel a real page turner. Some people have likened Josephine Coxs' writing to that of the late Catherine Cookson. I can see why the two could be compared but in my opinion, Josephine Cox writes in a far 'tighter' fashion which is more to my taste.
This is not a masterpiece or a book of earth shattering importance, it does not pretend to be! It is what it is, an entertaining and well written piece of fiction, one that I would re-read and definitely recommend to others.
I am awarding the novel a 5* rating as it is a very readable, page turner of a novel.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 March 2010
N.B. My review has previously been published on ciao.co.uk, under the same user name.