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Born in Carlisle, Margaret Forster is the author of many successful and acclaimed novels, including Have the Men Had Enough?, Lady's Maid, Diary of an Ordinary Woman, Is There Anything You Want?, Keeping the World Away, and Over, bestselling memoirs (Hidden Lives and Precious Lives) and biographies. She died in February 2016.
'I was born on 25th May, 1938, in the front bedroom of a house in Orton Road, a house on the outer edges of Raffles, a council estate. I was a lucky girl.' So begins Margaret Forster's journey through the houses she's lived in, from that sparkling new council house, to her beloved London home of today. This is not a book about bricks and mortar though. This is a book about what houses are to us, the effect they have on the way we live our lives and the changing nature of our homes: from blacking grates and outside privies; to cities dominated by bedsits and lodgings; to the houses of today converted back into single dwellings. Finally, it is a gently insistent, personal inquiry into the meaning of home.
'I was born on May 25, 1938, in the front bedroom of a house in Orton Road, on the outer edges of Raffles, a council estate. I was a lucky girl.' So begins Margaret Forster's journey through the houses she's lived in, from that sparkling new council house, built as part of a utopian vision by Carlisle City Council, to her beloved London house of today, via Oxford, Hampstead, the Lake District and a spell in the Mediterranean. This is not a book about bricks and mortar, or about how a house becomes a home with the right scatter of cushions. This is a book about what houses are to us, the effect they have on the way we live our lives. It is also a wonderful backwards glace at the changing nature of our accommodation: from blacking grates and outside privies; to cities dominated by bedsits and lodgings; to houses today being converted back into single dwellings, all open-plan spaces and bringing the outside in. Finally, it is a gently insistent, personal inquiry into the meaning of home.
When Julia was eight, she was asked to be a bridesmaid at her beautiful cousin Iris's wedding. Her mother saw this as a chore - expensive, inconvenient - but Julia was thrilled. When the time came, even the fact that her bridesmaid's dress didn't fit, and was plain cream rather than the pink she'd hoped for, couldn't ruin the day. But after this, things began to go wrong for Julia, starting with an episode involving her cousin's baby, a pram and a secret trip round the block. A lifetime later, Julia is a child psychologist who every day deals with young girls said to be behaving badly. Some are stealing, some are running away from home, some are terribly untidy, some won't eat or get out of bed. Julia has a special knack with these girls. She understands which really are troubled, and which are at the mercy of the way they are seen by the adults around them. But one day, Julia's own troubled past starts to creep into her present. And as she struggles to understand her childhood self, she must confront the possibility that the truth may not be as devastating as she feared.
I believe Margaret is one of our finest authors who ought to be better valued. She writes about women, here connected through a hospital as visitor, doctor, patient or ex-patient. Itâs a good, old-fashioned book with well rounded characters and an understanding of what it must be like to be diagnosed with cancer and the effects of surgery. Itâs beautifully written, enormously involving, only perhaps a little inconclusive. I longed to know more.Comparison: Anne Tyler, Maureen Duffy, Linda Grant.Similar this month: None.
The novel explores the experiences of a diverse group of women whose lives have all been changed by breast cancer
August 2011 Guest Editor Deborah Lawrenson on Margaret Forster... Margaret Forster’s biography of Daphne du Maurier is an absolute must for anyone who is fascinated by du Maurier’s enduring classic Rebecca. As you’d expect from a writer and biographer of Forster’s calibre, this is a riveting narrative in its own right, full of insight and understanding of the woman, which in turn illuminates her work. The Lovereading view... A biography of the novelist Daphne du Maurier which looks behind the relaxed and charming facade to expose the workings of a complex and emotional character. The book won the Macallan/Writers' Guild 1993 Non-fiction Award.
London 1844, and a shy young woman has arrived to take up a new position in the grandeur of No. 50, Wimpole Street. Subtly and compellingly, Lady's Maid gives voice to Elizabeth Wilson's untold story, her complex relationship with her mistress, Elizabeth Barrett, and her dramatic role in the most famous elopement in history.
Eight women who changed the world Caroline Norton * Elizabeth Blackwell * Florence Nightingale * Emily Davies * Josephine Butler * Elizabeth Cady Stanton * Margaret Sanger * Emma Goldman Significant Sisters traces the lives of eight women, each of whom pioneered vital changes in the spheres of law, education, the professions, morals or politics: the first woman doctor, the pioneer of birth control, a radical journalist, and suffragists. Each forged her own particular brand of feminism, yet all fought bravely to make real, lasting difference to women's lives, and make us redefine our own notions of feminism today.
Rowena wants a baby. What she doesn't want is the baby's father. Yet five years after the birth of Christabel, Rowena is dead, tragically killed in a climbing accident. The battle for Christabel has begun... With signature skill, Margaret Forster reveals the conflicting personal interests that lie behind each character's claim on the child. Drawn from the perspectives of social workers, grandparents, lovers and foster-mothers, this novel is a remarkable and heartfelt exploration of the complexities of motherhood.
To Penelope Butler the family was all, the sole ambition of her adult life. Three of her four daughters, however, had different ideas. Rosemary rejected it; Jess was destroyed by it; Celia found it eluded her. Only Emily pursued her mother's ideal, with disastrous results. Penelope begins to record their family story as it unfolds. But when Rosemary discovers these private papers she is enraged by her mother's distortions of the truth and proceeds to tell the story from her perspective. From D-Day on into the turbulent post-war years, a picture emerges not only of a single family in all its complexities, but also of the changing world that shaped their lives.
Rose Pendlebury has little in common with her Islington neighbours. Her street has been invaded by young, confident, upwardly-mobile people without, it seems, a care in the world. She keeps herself to herself, and only her husband Stan is aware of her bubbling anger, her terrible prickliness and her ability to take offence. But when Alice and Tony move in next door with their enchanting toddler Amy, Mrs Pendlebury begins to come out of her shell, as gradually her new neighbours undermine her traditional, cautious privacy. Mrs Pendlebury may not be ripe for transformation, or even happiness, but she is not too old to change.
Angela Bradbury's 'Poor Mother' : delicate, humble, permanently disappointed, has made endless sacrifices for her family, for which they can never quite be grateful enough. 'You can't please your mother', as her father says. Even now, just one phone call from Mother can send Angela spiralling into guilt, self-recrimination and doubts over her own abilities as a mother. Worryingly, Angela's relationship with her own daughter Sadie seems to be going the same way, as Sadie develops into a sullen, unresponsive adolescent. It seems that motherhood is a heritage of disappointments and broken promises. But Angela is determined that, somehow, her relationship with Sadie will be different.
Margaret Forster presents the 'edited' diary of a woman, born in 1901, whose life spans the twentieth century. On the eve of the Great War, Millicent King begins to keep her journal and vividly records the dramas of everyday life in a family touched by war, tragedy, and money troubles. From bohemian London to Rome in the 1920s her story moves on to social work and the build-up to another war, in which she drives ambulances through the bombed streets of London. Here is twentieth-century woman in close-up coping with the tragedies and upheavals of women's lives from WWI to Greenham Common and beyond. A triumph of resolution and evocation, this is a beautifully observed story of an ordinary woman's life - a narrative where every word rings true.
What do men run away from? Not war, not physical hardship, but the day-to-day emotional demands of impossible domestic situations. That's women's work. This is a story of female courage, where black comedy turns to disturbing pathos revolving around the rights of an indomitable woman
What is a 'good wife'? The bestselling author of Hidden Lives explores four marriages, including her own, in different times and societies to find the answer. In 1848 Mary Moffatt became the wife of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone - and her obedience and devotion eventually killed her. In 1960, Margaret Forster married her school sweetheart Hunter Davies in a London Registry Office - and interpreted the role very differently. Between these two marriages is a huge gulf in which the notion of marriage changed immeasurably. Forster traces the shift in emphasis from submission to partnership, first through the marriage of one unconventional American, Fanny Osbourne, to Robert Louis Stevenson, in the late nineteenth century; and then through that of Jennie Lee to Aneurin Bevan in the 1930s. Why does a woman still want to be a wife in the twenty-first century? What is the value of marriage today? Why do couples still marry in church? These are some of the questions Forster asks as she weaves the personal experience of forty years through the stories of three wives who have long fascinated her.
A young woman leaves a sealed memory box for her baby daughter before she dies. Years later, as a young woman herself, Catherine finds her mother's box full of unexplained, even weird objects. Finding out what the objects represent is her only chance to find out about the mother she never knew ...
A brilliant follow-up to Hidden Lives, Margaret Forster's most personal book yet takes up the story of her gritty, northern father, Arthur, intertwined with that of her sister-in-law, Marion, who died of cancer at almost half the age of the 96 year-old Arthur. Margaret Forster's father was not a man to answer questions - least of all questions about life and death, so she attempts to answer them for herself. As Forster looks back at Arthur's life and indomitable character, she evokes incidents from her childhood, his working life and stubborn old age, trying to make sense of their largely unspoken relationship, and of his tenacious hold on life, and on his family. Arthur and Marion's lives were ordinary, and apparently unremarkable, but, when faced with death, lives like these become strangely precious.
Margaret Forster's grandmother died in 1936, taking many secrets to her grave. Where had she spent the first 23 years of her life? Who was the woman in black who paid her a mysterious visit shortly before her death? How had she borne living so close to an illegitimate daughter without acknowledging her? The search for answers took Margaret on a journey into her family's past, examining not only her grandmother's life, but also her mother's and her own. The result is both a moving, evocative memoir and a fascinating commentary on how women's lives have changed over the past century.