9 June 2009 | didi-5
high drama from the first lady of period fiction
Catherine Cookson was for many years the most borrowed and read writers from UK public libraries, and her novels remain popular years after her death. The TV adaptations which were made over a twenty year span generally do the books proud without making their thin plots seem ridiculous, and 'The Wingless Bird' is no exception.
Agnes Conway (Claire Skinner) is an independent young lady who works in her father's sweet shop. She's shielding her sister Jessie (Michelle Charles), who is having a secret romance with someone of a lower class, while herself engaging in an intrigue with the impossibly handsome Charles Farrier (Edward Atterton), the second son of a moneyed military family.
This is typical Cookson territory, really. There's high drama, attempted murders, disgrace, scandal, and a swathe of upper class snooty horrors including Charles' mother (Elspet Gray, perhaps still best known as mother to The Black Adder).
'The Wingless Bird' is engrossing, if predictable, fare, and is beautifully photographed and flawlessly played by its cast (Skinner in particular is excellent as are Anne Reid as her mother and Julian Wadham as the eldest Farrier son, Reg). A superior soapy drama.