The Cornish Sagas

Absorbing stories of a tin-mining community

Rosemary Aitken’s series of Cornish novels were originally inspired by her own family history. Her paternal grandfather (Tom Rowe) was killed in the Levant tin-mining disaster in 1919, leaving eleven surviving motherless children, of whom her father was number ten. On a visit to Geevor mine with one of these children, then in his eighties, who had worked briefly as a tin-miner himself, she was fascinated by his descriptions of his childhood, and his obvious pride and affection for the job, and felt that she must try to capture this. She was intrigued by the contrast with the life evoked by the records of a local manor house (Treenere, at that time owned by another uncle) which formed the model for Trevarnon House in the books.

The Girl from Penvarris (Orion) was followed by a series, each depicting a different trade, or social dilemma for young women of the period, derived not only from archives, but from interviews with elderly relatives or friends The Tinner’s Daughter deals with clay-mining and fishing, Cornish Harvest with farming and First World War Convalescent Homes. The duo of novels based on boat-building, Stormy Waters and The Silent Shore, also touches on social divides between different villages, while The Granite Cliffs explores the dilemma of a vicar’s daughter who is neither gentry nor a member of the granite quarrying community in which she lives. Against the Tide returns to fishing and the sea, the controversy surrounding Sunday fishing and the introduction of paraffin engines to the boats, while touching on education and conscientious objectors in the First World War: The Tregenza Girls explores the problems of the blind, and the training of doctors in that period, while From Penvarris with Love faces the seamstress heroine with the realities of war, including a local soldier who is shot for cowardice.

Characters and events in the novels are purely fictional (the family tragedy and details are private), but there is an attempt to capture the social history of Penwith, and explore the impact of the Great War on individuals and on a vanishing way of Cornish life. One elderly reader was good enough to say “I love your books, they remind me of my youth. It was just like that.” The eleventh book has just been published.

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The mysterious appearance of an unidentified man leads to difficult questions - and romance ...Cornwall, 1911: Young lady's maid Effie Pengelly is confused and alarmed when charming Constable Alexander Dawes questions her about an unidentified, now deceased man who came to the town asking for her whereabouts. As the weeks go by, Constable Dawes seeks out any excuse to talk to Miss Pengelly, but he knows his family would never allow them to marry. When the investigation into the dead man finally reveals a clue, could this lead Alex and Effie towards the future they deserve?
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Autumn 1909: Edith Trewin, the general maid in the Killivert household, and Miss Alicia, the young lady of the house, are social worlds apart, though they share a streak of independence and intelligence. The two young women become unlikely allies after a kitchen maid inexplicably disappears shortly after her arrival at the house. The two unite in the search for her as they experience love and loss as the Great War overtakes the world.
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This is a wonderfully evocative tale set in Cornwall during First World War...Penzance, Cornwall, 1914: apprentice seamstresses Maud and Belinda both work at Madame Raymond's boutique and find their days are full of fiddly alterations and difficult customers. Maud finds her work is made bearable by the occasional visit to the Hoskins' farm where she is friendly with their son Stanley. Meanwhile Belinda has a string of admirers and seems to skip from one to the next in desperate pursuit of a husband.Soon the First World War rears its head and Stanley enlists and is sent off to France. Life changes dramatically for the girls in Penzance as Belinda suddenly finds and enjoys a new independence and Maud learns how harsh love can be before it's hardly started...
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' superb novel. . . an enthralling Cornish saga' - WOMAN'S REALM

RUGGED AND HONEST AS THE LAND THAT BORE HER. . . Born into a large family in a Cornish tin-mining village at the turn of the century, young Katie Warren is forced to abandon her dreams of working as a pupil-teacher when her mother dies in child-birth. Instead she goes into service at the big house with her sister Fanny. Katie is soon content with her work and against her will finds herself growing fond of the shy but kind son of the house, George Trevarnon. However, thanks to George's unscrupulous but attractive brother Robert, the girls are dismissed and Katie is obliged to struggle for a living in the alien city of Truro, while a disillusioned George enlists to bury his emotions in the dangers and devastations of the Boer War. . . When the two meet again after much tribulation and heartbreak, each is married to another; but the webs of fate weave their lives inextricably together through joy, tragedy and torment, until they are at last able to unite - in the deceptive peace of an Edwardian summer. Melding fascinating tin-mining lore with the self-indulgent lives of the aristocracy in a world teetering between war and unemployment, The Girl from Penvarris delivers a rich blend of romance and realism that will tug the heartstrings. habitants.
(This book is also available as an audio cassette)
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'The narrative flows easily, the characters leap from the page' - HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY REVIEW

'Thoroughly researched and very well written. . . You cannot help but become involved in the lives of the characters. . . Rosemary Aitken, whose grandfather was killed in the Levant tin mine disaster of 1919, writes with authority, authenticity and acuity, making the promise of her future books an eagerly awaited treat' - CORNISH WORLD

As the nineteenth century inches to a close, it is time for Carrie Trimble to leave the familiar Terrace on its windswept cliff and go into service in Penzance. Merry, hardworking Carrie soon adapts to her employers' little peculiarities, Miss Limmon's sourness and her friend Dolly's strong-smelling links with the fishing industry. Her own guilty connection with a Newlyn artist proves somewhat harder to forget, however. Even when she meets Ernie, and has to adapt to the even stranger life of a clayer's wife over at St Austell, Carrie always keeps Penvarris in her heart - and the enigmatic Frenchman she used to meet on the cliff-path there. As the years pass, Carrie faces hardship and personal loss with generosity and fortitude, and never hints at the sacrifice she has made. Only when the monstrous upheaval of war rocks the very roots of the whole community, might Carrie get a second chance to seize the happiness that passed her by ... Set against the rugged backdrop of rural Cornwall, The Tinner's Daughter is an absorbing, large-hearted portrait of a mining community.
(This book is also available as an audio cassette)
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'Lizzie looked around her: at the sunshine, the corn, the sea and the cliffs. Of course her father was right. These things were eternal.' But are they? It is 1914, the lights are about to go out allover Europe and Lizzie Treloweth's stable and happy Cornish life is plunged into confusion. One of ten children, she and her family struggle to run her father's butcher's shop and, when he enlists, she misses him and the Jago brothers from the neighbouring farm more than she believed possible. Lizzie volunteers to nurse the wounded at Little Manor, as does the spoilt and wayward Tamsin Beswetherick. But Tamsin's actions threaten to disgrace them both, and a despairing Lizzie is forced to leave Penzance and seek a new life in the Land Army after she loses the man she loves. As the war to end all wars takes its grim toll in France, on the bleak Home Front Lizzie learns to live again, and finds that love may be found in unexpected places. A tender and perceptive story of hope and the possibility of happy endings, Rosemary Aitken transports the reader back to a time of passion and pathos, of heartbreak and hard work in a novel which captures the essence of wartime Cornwall and its inhabitants.
(This book is also available as an audio cassette)
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WILHELMINA 'Sprat' Nicholls has lived all her life in 'the Cove', below the Cornish village of Penvarris, isolated from mainstream Cornish society. Now new opportunities are beckoning in the shape of a position as companion to retired music-hall star Violet Gresham. Denzil Vargo and his mother are long-time residents of Penvarris, and have learned to adjust to life without Denzil's drunken bully of a father. Even better, Denzil is progressing nicely as a clerk in a shipping company. When Stan Vargo returns unexpectedly, however, it becomes clear that their tiny cottage won't hold two grown men with very different outlooks on life. Mixing with strangers is frowned upon for both Denzil and Sprat, but they have managed to evade their family long enough to strike up a friendship. But a sixteen-year-old secret is about to shatter all their hopes and dreams.
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'Aitken not only skillfully animates an intriguing setting but she also fashions a cliff-hanger ' - Booklist

The heartwarming continuation to Stormy Waters

After a startling revelation led "Sprat" Nicholls to break off with her childhood sweetheart, Denzil Vargo, and quarrel with her family, she was determined to get as far away from her native Cornwall as possible - and London, three hundred miles from home, seemed like a pretty good start. For a time, the capital provides some amusing diversions, including a new suffragette acquaintance and the startling appearance of Tom Courtney, Denzil's nemesis. But the stifling atmosphere of the city streets soon has Sprat longing for the fresh, peaceful cliffs of her home, for the open arms of her forgiving parents - and for the bewildered Denzil, who has no idea at all why he and Sprat can never be together.
.... A lovely evocation of a bygone era - with lively characters and an exciting conclusion.
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`A sweet and simple tale in which early-twentieth-century England comes alive' - Booklist

Love, life and loss in Edwardian England

Victoria Flower, motherless and nearing womanhood, is beginning to chafe against the restrictions of her life as the vicar's only daughter in a remote Cornish mining town. Her honourable and well-meaning father, though disillusioned by the impossibility of his spiritual task, thinks he has found a suitable companion for her when he introduces a gentle, musical young curate into the parish. Indeed a friendship blossoms, as Victoria finds a fellow-sufferer in his rather gauche and awkward ways. All this is to change, however, when a accident at the granite-pit brings Victoria into close contact with stone-worker Daniel Olds, whose rugged muscularity she has already secretly admired, and finds the admiration mutual. However, there is no possibility of a match. Convention and society are against them, and Dan is already promised to local girl, Mollie Coombs, who is not likely to give up her beau without a struggle. The Curate, too, shows a determined side, though he proves to have a secret of his own. Set at a time when Edwardian convention was absolute and when the Penwith mining industry was in crisis and decline, this book offers a lively glimpse at the social and economic realities of love, life and loss in early twentieth-century Cornwall.
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Twin sisters Winnie and Dora are accustomed to conflict. Their fisherman father stirs up resentment among the locals with his modern fishing techniques and dominates his household with his violent temper. His ambition for his daughters is to see them married well, but, although Winnie shares his aspirations, Dora loves local miner's son Tom. Winnie marries wealthy businessman Nathan Zeal, whose cousin, attractive older widower Zachariah, shows an interest in Dora. Winnie encourages the match, and fate and family conspire to put an end to Dora's romantic hopes and her beloved job. But the opportunity that the twins need to confront their father and the expectations of society and create the life that they want will take a form that they could never have predicted.
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Helena Tregenza has a loving family, beauty, a gift for music and a lively intelligence - but no one would envy her. A childhood accident destroyed her sight, leaving her with little place in the Edwardian world, confined to the house, an embarrassment to many - particularly her vivacious, ambitious sister Lucy. Even sturdy Maisie, the household maid who longs, but cannot afford, to marry her carter beau, would not change places with "poor Miss Ellener". Impulsive Lucy, meanwhile, has long had a secret romance with her childhood sweetheart James. But, will she be swept of her feet by dashing, arrogant Simon Robinson? And what of Helena? Odd-looking but skilled eye-doctor Samuel Maskins takes an interest in her - but can she find a place in a world closed to a sightless girl? And how will humble Maisie fare struggling in her far less privileged setting? All of them have hard choices to make - until the horrors of the First World War shatter their tranquil world...
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