Book Of The Month December, 2006
Patsy Of Paradise PlaceRosie Harris
She saved the business, but can she save herself? After years of neglect by her mother, when her father comes home from sea and sets up as a carrier at the Liverpool Docks, Patsy dreams of being a proper family again. But when her father is killed in an accident and her mother returns to her errant ways, Patsy must keep the business going with the help of her childhood friend, Billy Grant. And when Patsy falls passionately in love with fairground showman Bruno Alvarez, who leaves her, pregnant and heartbroken, only loyal Billy stands by her in her troubles. But when he is badly injured at work Patsy is left friendless and without a home…
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Rosie Harris, author of Patsy Of Paradise Place on the settings for her sagas:
I was born in Cardiff and I have always had a very special ‘feel’ about this lovely city.
When I left school I started work at Cardiff City Hall and every day as I approached that magnificent city centre I felt proud to be working there. It is a gleaming white stone edifice, topped by a magnificent dragon. Flanking it is the equally impressive buildings of the Cardiff Museum, the Law Courts and the University buildings.
They are grouped around Cathays Park which was once part of the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The centre-piece of the splendidly laid out Alexandra Gardens is the beautiful Temple of Peace, its double colonnade enclosing the Cenotaph. To the south is Cardiff Castle itself, an impressive reminder of the city’s long history, and which until 1947 was the home of the Marquis of Bute. Flowing past it and on through the town and out into the Bristol channel is the River Taff. Another landmark which has just been added is, of course, the new Millennium Stadium, the great sports centre which replaces Cardiff Arms Park. This is modern 21st century Cardiff but my sagas are set at the beginning of the 20th century when Cardiff was still growing, a busy seaport that was expanding almost daily thanks to thriving ship building and export of highly valued steam coal that came from the nearby mining villages.
A great many of the workers, however, were earning pitifully low wages, and the tightly packed houses were shared by two or even three families. With so much overcrowding tempers became frayed, tragedies happened and many of these streets became slums especially around Tiger Bay and the dock area. Most of these roads have now vanished, replaced by smart office blocks or shopping precincts. I feel it is important that the memory of them and of the hardworking people who lived in them, often under dire conditions, should be remembered. This is what I try to do in my Sagas set in Cardiff and I hope they are a tribute to the wonderful wives, mother and daughters who bravely struggled against tremendous odds. They deserve to be remembered; they are the unsung founders of today’s prosperous City.
When I first crossed on a ferryboat from Liverpool to Wallasey I was impressed by the grandeur of the waterfront- Liverpool became important at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the greatest ships of all time docked in Liverpool loaded with tobacco and cotton which brought wealth to the area and raw material to the cotton mills of Lancashire.
Today all that is gone. The massive warehouses have become Art galleries and leisure centres but the waterfront, which has a skyline very similar to New York’s, still remains every bit as impressive. The stately rattling Green Goddess trams have been replaced by sleek buses, but it is still a city full of bustle and importance.
Many of the Courts and alleyways around Scotland Road which feature so strongly in my Sagas have long since vanished, but I always try to make sure that their names and locations are accurate. The history of those times may reflect the raw poverty and deprivation and be something we would like to forget. I feel the stories of those who struggled against such adversities and helped to make this great city what it is today deserve to be remembered.