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February 09 , 2008

Cast in Paradise


Cast in Paradise is an historic novel that follows the fortunes of working families in Witton Park, a small village in County Durham, from the opening of the iron works in the mid-1800s, during its zenith in the 1860s to its decline and closure in the 1880s. Through the eyes and lives of migrants from other parts of Britain, the times and tribulations of this tough, down to earth and sometimes bitterly divided community are brought to life. Witton Park in the late nineteenth century was a bonanza to capital investors and attracted workers in droves—numbers that far outstripped the more famous gold rushes of California and the Klondike. Wages erupted so that men labouring in the iron works or mining coal from the local pits earned three or four times what an agricultural worker did. Employment at Witton Park brought unparalleled wealth to many ordinary people but for others it brought misery. Bouts of excessive drinking and addiction to gambling resulted in domestic violence and ruin to some. And life in such close proximity also brought to a head ingrained religious differences that festered just below the surface. Paradise attracted hard men; good and bad. It became home to thousands who lived, loved and laboured for a better life. They built a village and set down roots in the iron-hard ground—roots that hold together still.

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