The Obsession

Overview

Beatrice Steel, eldest daughter of the formidable Simon Steel, has always been exceedingly possessive about her family home, Pine Hurst. She becomes intolerably domineering after her mother's untimely death, ruling over her three sisters and the servants with an iron hand. It is her youngest sister, Rosie, who most resents Beatrice's tyranny and the stifling austerity of her father, whose private life is as wretched and gloomy as his demeanor. Her father owns the house, and Beatrice fears that he might someday ...
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Overview

Beatrice Steel, eldest daughter of the formidable Simon Steel, has always been exceedingly possessive about her family home, Pine Hurst. She becomes intolerably domineering after her mother's untimely death, ruling over her three sisters and the servants with an iron hand. It is her youngest sister, Rosie, who most resents Beatrice's tyranny and the stifling austerity of her father, whose private life is as wretched and gloomy as his demeanor. Her father owns the house, and Beatrice fears that he might someday remarry, and another woman would supplant her as mistress of Pine Hurst. For Beatrice, no one could ever take the place of her prized possession, and her sisters are distressed that no man has so far shown any interest in marrying the indomitable Beatrice, thus distracting her from her unwholesome obsession. Then, unexpectedly, her father dies, and when the family meets for the reading of the will, nothing Beatrice hears matches her expectations. Revelations of indecent family history dismay the Steel daughters. Beatrice realizes that her security is threatened and that she must begin to plot to protect her position and her most precious possession.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in England, this story of a wicked woman's vengeful drive to control her family estate is another in popular romance novelist Cookson's (The Rag Nymph) formulaic but eventful tales. When Doctor John Falconer attends strong-willed Beatrice Steel's 21st birthday celebration, he falls in love with Beatrice's beautiful younger sister, Helen. Fate is not kind, however, because she is set to marry another. Later, when Simon Steel, the father of Beatrice, Helen and two other daughters, is murdered, Beatrice, the eldest daughter, channels her jealous, controlling spirit into Pine Hurst, which she inherits. Burdened with the old man's debts and the revelation of his gambling, womanizing ways, Beatrice sets about keeping her youngest sister, Rosie, from marrying and leaving her alone. Devastated, Rosie is comforted by Robbie McIntosh and his mother, who live next door to Pine Hurst on a bit of land deeded to them by the Steel girls' grandfather. When the doctor rents a small house on the estate for his arthritis-stricken mother, Beatrice shows a softer side, and John marries her after a tipsy Christmas Eve proposal. Soon, however, he finds that she is spiteful and evil. As the good doctor struggles to abide his marriage, Helen reappears with her dying husband, who asks John to look after her, a request that is to have violent consequences. Although Cookson knows how to tell an absorbing tale, she allows Beatrice to remain disappointingly two-dimensional, her strange bitterness and isolation left unexamined. This, however, is unlikely to deter Cookson's huge following. Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; Literary Guild alternate. (July)
Library Journal
Beatrice Steel's fanatic devotion to her family's north-country estate and to her unscrupulous father alienates her three sisters. The two oldest, Marion and Helen, escape by marrying. After the father's death reveals that his gambling and whoring have bankrupted the family, Beatrice's obsession only grows. Through deception, she convinces her youngest sister's fianc to break his engagement so that Rosie will be forced to remain at home. Then Beatrice manipulates her own marriage to the local doctor, John Falconer, whose real love rests with Helen. Intriguing subplots, interesting and well-developed major and minor characters, and strong narrative movement demonstrate Cookson's (The Year of the Virgins, LJ 3/1/95) mastery of the historical romance. Although the happy outcomes for Rosie, Helen, and John are unsurprising, the journey there is well worth the read. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/97.]Kathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Kirkus Reviews
Cookson's hyperventilating, unbuttoned tales of (usually period) Tyneside passion ricocheting among the social classes in (generally) northern England (The Year of the Virgins, 1995, etc.) were good fun. But here the Cookson formulaic cast of characters—a villain vile, a noble lover, nice girls, and one completely mad shrew—are simply tiresome.

The kind-souled kingpin now is bachelor doctor John Falconer, who has just bought into a practice near the estate of Pine Hurst, owned by sly Simon Steel, father of four daughters: lovely Helen, pretty Marion, bouncy childlike Rosie, and Beatrice the horrid. Dr. John is enthralled by Helen, but she and Marion are off to marry; even Rosie is engaged—although later Beatrice will end that, since she wants company in her beloved Pine Hurst, which she plans to save at all costs. Father Simon, you see, has been fatally beaned by a tree, and after his death all his bad deeds are aired: whoring and gambling and drinking. Beatrice is prepared to do battle to preserve her beloved house, now deeply in debt. She glowers, harangues, schemes, manipulates her sisters, and eats chocolates. But there's a hiatus from meanness when she unaccountably mellows and Dr. John, high on wine, unaccountably proposes—but, oh, what a mistake. Beatrice is insatiable in bed (to the hardworking doctor's dismay) and fairly eerie out of it. She not only nips in the bud a Rosie romance, but has been seen to pull a gun on innocent gypsies. By the close, Beatrice is fully bananas, and while true lovers find one another (Helen's fine husband conveniently contracts TB), Beatrice's virtuosi assaults—brick- throwing, flying tackles—lead to a time-honored immolation scene, Mrs. Danvers-style.

The dialogue here splatters instead of popping; and there's a plenitude of "shut up's!" and other less than inventive up-front sentiments. A lesser effort, then, but never count out the Cookson- addicted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451660197
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/27/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,416,283
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Cookson lived in Northumberland, England, the setting of many of her international bestsellers. Born in Tyne Dock, she was the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished woman, Kate, whom she was raised to believe was her older sister. She began to work in the civil service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married a local grammar school master.
Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer, in 1968 her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award, her readership quickly spread worldwide, and her many bestselling novels established her as one of the most popular contemporary authors. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998, having completed 104 works.

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