Dauntless Liza Jarrett, born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in her eighties, frail and facing eviction with her cantankerous parrot Nelson, when she is visited by Stephen, a young gay social worker. As she learns to trust him, she recalls her life her embittered, exhausted mother, her shell-shocked spiritualist husband, her beloved son and chaotic daughter. Their friendship, deepening with the unfolding of their stories, comes to sustain Liza through her last battle and brings new hope to Stephen. 'A modern-day masterpiece' - The Sunday Times
The Century's Daughter is Pat Barker's most brilliant achievement yet - the story of a northern working-class community seen through the eyes of Liza Jarrett, born on the last stroke of midnight as the twentieth century begins. Liza never forgets her mother's humiliation in the steel magnet's house where she cleans: her childhood teaches her much about loyalty, love and fortitude. Growing up in the First World War, she married Frank - mystic, faith healer and unemployed steel worker - and, supported by neighbours and friends, brings up her children through the hardship of the Depression. The Second World War brings the greatest trial of Liza's strength, but she survives, humour intact, into the sixties and the seventies, caring for her beloved granddaughter, Kath, only to see 'progress' do what Depression and war failed to do: break the community that nourished her.
This is also Stephen's story, the tale of a young community worker alienated by education and homosexuality from parents he can now hardly talk to and a job he bitterly defines as finding ways for the unemployed to pass their time. Stephen comes to Liza to offer help, but stays instead to be helped.
A remarkable mixture of naturalistic style and poetic sensiblity, this outstanding novel captures flawlessly the taut, hard humour and warmth of people who have had short shrift both in literature and in life.