Good Wives: Mary, Fanny, Jennie and Me, 1845-2001

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9780099283775: Good Wives: Mary, Fanny, Jennie and Me, 1845-2001

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.

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Review:

The question mark in the title of Margaret Forster's triple biography and memoir, Good Wives?, betrays something of her ambivalence on the subject of matrimony. To deconstruct what a "good" wife might be, she explores the lives of a "wife-of" trio who were all married to prominent men (as is Forster, to writer and journalist Hunter Davies), making them good subjects, if hardly representative. Mary Livingstone proved a determinedly submissive wife to her missionary explorer husband, constantly uprooting and following him over Africa on an ox wagon. For Forster there are only cursory overlaps with her own experience; she dismisses Mary quite harshly, while pitying the grimness of her existence. Fanny, married to Robert Louis Stevenson, was a more determined soul. Together they sailed to the South Seas in the search for hospitable climates for his frail constitution, where she nursed him, kept house, and wrote a little herself. When he finally died in 1894, though, so did much of Fanny. Forster has more time and sympathy for a woman who had seen something of the world on her own terms, even if the vow "in sickness and in health" was to hold undue pertinence. Lastly, the purposeful, militant Jennie Lee, who eventually married politician Nye Bevan, provokes only admiring connection in Forster. Lee, an MP herself, saw marriage as a practical contract, though she loved and protected Bevan dearly. Children were out of the question: not only did she refuse to play mother, she disdained playing housekeeper or moll, and refused to sacrifice her own career.

The "Reflections" from Forster that follow each wifely portrait are easily the most interesting sections of this bracing, unindulgent book. In comparing her own marriage to those of her subjects, she reflects insightfully on universal themes of marital union, such as in-laws, (in)dependence, entertaining, careers, money, home and children, and concludes that if she were considering it today as a young woman, she would marry for children, but not for a husband. Perhaps Hunter Davies might consider writing Good Husbands?, as a companion partner to this relentlessly thoughtful, stimulating work of scholarship and experience. --David Vincent

Review:

"Forster gives a fascinating and eminently readable account of these women's lives and their marriages, and in doing so raises many questions regarding the changing relationship between the sexes" ( Spectator)

"The star...emerges as Forster herself" ( Times Literary Supplement)

"Lively and highly enjoyable" ( Sunday Telegraph)

"Fascinating, compellingly written" ( Independent)

"Forster raises crucial questions, and provides some provocative answers about what it means to be a wife, good or otherwise" ( Mail on Sunday)

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099283775

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099283775

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Book Description 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 129mm x 198mm x 23mm. Paperback. 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 1854, in Africa, Mary Moffat.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 368 pages. 0.267. Bookseller Inventory # 9780099283775

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Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: New. 2002. New Ed. Paperback. Why do many women still get married? Why do others not? Why do couples still marry in church in an age of unbelief? Taking up where "Hidden Lives" left off, these are some of the questions the author addresses, through the stories of three women who have long fascinated her. Num Pages: 368 pages, 8. BIC Classification: JFSJ1; VFVG. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 22. Weight in Grams: 268. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099283775

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Book Description Vintage, 2002. Book Condition: New. 2002. New Ed. Paperback. Why do many women still get married? Why do others not? Why do couples still marry in church in an age of unbelief? Taking up where "Hidden Lives" left off, these are some of the questions the author addresses, through the stories of three women who have long fascinated her. Num Pages: 368 pages, 8. BIC Classification: JFSJ1; VFVG. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 22. Weight in Grams: 268. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099283775

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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; 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. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780099283775_rkm

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Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Good Wives?: Mary, Fanny, Jennie and Me, 1845-2001, Margaret Forster, 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. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099283775

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