Evelyn Hood: A tribute to Paisley’s all-time bestselling author
Paisley’s all-time bestselling author, Evelyn Hood, has died. Famed for her Paisley sequence of eight novels, former journalist Evelyn’s books had a global following. A tribute by Brian Hannan from Abbey Books.
In my opinion she was unfairly discounted in literary circles and for the worst reason of all – she was a woman. That might sound a harsh judgement in itself for me to make, but Evelyn wrote about working-class life. And although there were many acclaimed historical books about working class life they were mainly about men and written by men. And more importantly, the likes of Sons and Lovers and The Grapes of Wrath had an agricultural background.
Few men, for example, wrote about shipyards or coal mining. But when women like Evelyn Hood contemplated the working-class woman her characters, who could hardly afford not to work, were engaged in manufacture work – the mills, handlooms at home and weaving industries of Paisley and in a later tale cabinet-making. And while male characters had time on their hands, a woman’s work was never done, a life spent in keeping a house, washing, baking, endless chores.
It was this world that Evelyn, albeit with her female characters generally enmeshed in romance, evoked and hit a real chord with readers. But the characters were grounded in the detail of work. In Damask Days, for example, heroine Catherine Knox is a tambourer and ends up managing a group of female tambourers at a time when Scotland’s textile industry was in its infancy.
And she captures the hell of factories – “the smell of oil and the noise and the fluff in the air catching your breath” and the children “many of them little more than babies, with their tiny pale faces and eyes huge from lack of sleep, thin little limbs sticking out of frayed sleeves and trouser legs…crawling around under machinery and dragging great baskets around.”
Set in real times and packed with historical incident – cholera epidemic, riots, the Industrial Revolution, the Silver Bell horserace – and places (Paisley Cross, Espedair Street, Gilmour Street), Hood’s books are a window to a bygone era and she deserves to be remembered.
The novels in the Paisley Saga are: A Stranger To Town, Fortune’s Way, The Damask Days, Another Day, The Dancing Stone, Looking After Your Own, Birds in the Spring and The Silken Thread.
We’ve got a very fine selection of her books if you fancy finding out about this author for yourselves.