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 familyís past, examining not only her grandmother's life, but also her motherís and her own. The result is both a moving, evocative memoir and a fascinating commentary on how womenís lives have changed over the past century.
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A warm and evocative autobiography
After reading Margaret Forsterís autobiography one might wonder how she was able to escape from a background which could have in the end made her as much of a "prisoner" as it did her mother, and her grandmother - locked in lives of poverty and duty. Whereas her grandmother (born in 1869) might not even had had the chance to dream - illegitimate and "in service" - unable to escape the daily domestic drudgery from dawn to dusk, her motherís own life was a little better but many young women of her generation were still not sufficiently liberated to allow them to break away from what seemed a certain domestic inevitability. Marrying more because she wanted children rather than feeling any great love for the man she was marrying (we donít learn too much about her husband) - she felt she could have been a vicarís wife, a doctorís wife, with a lifestyle more appropriate to her aspirations - but she accepted her condition (although not without a frustration which never seems to have left her). Locked in a daily routine which largely concentrated on looking after her husband and bringing up her children, this pious woman did find some solace in doing "good works". But Margaret Forster had seen the "writing on the wall" - not for her the stifling routine of domestic obligations - she was an avid reader, did well in school - and peering through the railings of the grammar school dreamt of better things and above all, no marriage, even more importantly, no babies. However, with her motivation and academic competence she not only went to the grammar school, but also went on to Oxford - and (despite her anti-marriage stance when younger) did marry in her early 20s and the babies did arrive after all. Rebelling against her upbringing with a determination not to share the same sort of life as that of her mother, she was able to fulfil herself finally when she left home - and doesn't appear to have ever strayed from her initial ambition - that of becoming a writer.
There are some exceptionally poignant moments towards the end of the book when her mother has now become an older, sick woman - a mother to whom she was never able to entirely relate - and vice-versa - although one feels there had always been a strong bond of love between them which neither of them had much success in articulating. The "fault" of that perhaps lay neither entirely with Margaret Forster nor her mother, but maybe it was because of the overlapping generations. Both her mother's generation and that of her grandmother were ones in which many things were left unsaid (for example, she never did know why her mother had disappeared mysteriously into hospital when she was a child - never did know why her grandmother seemed to have disowned an earlier daughter) - questions had been left without any answers throughout her childhood and indeed, even as an adult, she was unable to find the answers to them. Leaving home permitted her to enter into the liberated world of the 60s where everything was changing for the younger generation. For Margaret Forster she was in the right place at the right time.
A touching book - a book one doesnít want to put down until the last page has been reached.
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Book Description Penguin, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 336 pages. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0140239820
Book Description PENGUIN GROUP. Book Condition: Neu. Neu Neuware, Importqualität, Versand Büchersendung - A memoir of Forster's grandmother and mother which reflects on the changes in women's lives - about sex, family, work - across three generations. It is a moving, evocative account, passionate in its progress, punchy as a detective novel in its story of Forster's search for her grandmother's illegitimate daughter. It also shows how biography can challenge our basic assumptions about which lives have been significant and why Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times. 8pp b/w photos.< Englisch. Bookseller Inventory # INF1000084419
Book Description 1996. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service!. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0140239820
Book Description Penguin UK, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0140239820
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Book Description Penguin UK. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0140239820 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW4.0060778
Book Description Penguin UK, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110140239820