Books

Diary of an Ordinary Schoolgirl

Margaret Forster

23 February
Results rolling in! Algebra, 6th = 74%. Not bad. Latin = 55% Thrilled! History top = 85% smashing! Geography, disgusting, 2nd = 67%.

In 1954 in Carlisle lived an ordinary 15-year-old schoolgirl called Margaret. She would go on to become an acclaimed writer, the author of the novels Georgy Girl and Diary of an Ordinary Woman as well as biographies and memoirs. But this is her diary from that year; her life. Hers might be a lost world, but her daily observations bring it back in vivid, irresistible detail.

7 May
Wonderful feat accomplished yesterday by Roger Bannister! At last, the 4 minute mile. Glad an Englishman got it before anyone else.

24 July
Bought a pair of shorts – white, very short with two pockets. Super but rather daring!

2 September
Mum’s coming back on Saturday. Miss her every minute! I'll never marry and have a family -- housekeeping for two for a week is bad enough -- but for life!

How to Measure a Cow

Margaret Forster

‘Compelling…taut and suspenseful’ Guardian

Tara Fraser has a secret.

Desperate to escape herself and her past, she changes her name, packs up her London home and moves to a town in the North of England where she knows no one.

But one of her new neighbours, Nancy, is intrigued by her. And as hard as Tara tries to distance herself, she starts to drop her guard.

Then a letter arrives. An old friend wants to meet up. Struggling to keep her old life at bay, Tara soon discovers the dangers of fighting the past.

My Life in Houses

Margaret Forster

‘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.

The Unknown Bridesmaid

Margaret Forster

Only one person knows what happened that day…



Julia was the only person who knew what happened that day.

But she didn’t tell the police. And then it was too late.

Now, years later, her secret looms large.

Is it really too late? And if she does tell, can she bear the consequences?

Rich Desserts And Captains Thin

Margaret Forster

In 1831 John Dodgson Carr, son of a Quaker grocer, set off to walk from his home in Kendal to Carlisle, determined to launch a great enterprise. Within 15 years, Carr's of Carlisle had become one of the largest baking businesses in the world -and is a by-word for biscuits to this day. Following his trail to Carlisle (where she herself was born and grew up), Margaret Forster brings 19th-century daily life into vivid focus and charts the rise and rise of a middle-class family like the Carrs, ambitious, innovative yet sternly religious. This is history as it was lived by the men and women both above and below stairs - from the shop floor to the comfortable bourgeois homes of the paternalistic Carrs. We see the conflict between religion and profit, the family feuds and the changing face of a city through this compelling historical narrative, told with Margaret Forster's characteristic blend of scholarship, readability and marvellous attention to the texture of everyday life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Margaret Forster

This biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, written with reference to Browning correspondence only recently available, argues that the poet was a strong and determined woman largely responsible for her own incarceration in Wimpole Street. The author traces her life from her early childhood and adolescence and explores her marriage. She draws a picture of early Victorian family life and aims to show that Elizabeth was a considerable and dedicated poet, self-willed, witty and courageous. Forster has also edited the companion volume "Selected Poems" of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and is author of several other biographies.

Shadow Baby

Margaret Forster

Born in Carlisle in 1887, brought up in a children's home and by reluctant relatives, Evie, with her wild hair and unassuming ways, seems a quiet, undemanding child.

Shona, born almost seventy years later, is headstrong and striking. She grows up in comfort and security in Scotland, the only child of doting parents. But there are, as she discovers, unanswered questions about her past.

The two girls have only one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but these two girls grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to stalk and then haunt her natural mother. Both mothers dread disclosure; both daughters seek emotional compensation and, ultimately, revenge.

The Memory Box

Margaret Forster

Catherine's mother died when Catherine was just a baby girl, leaving nothing but her perfect reputation to live up to. Or so she thought. But then Catherine finds a box addressed to her, filled with objects seemingly without meaning - three feathers, an exotic seashell, a painting, a mirror, two prints, an address book, a map, a hat, a rucksack and a necklace.

And while she's busy playing detective trying to find out who her mother was, she finds out more about herself than she ever really wanted to know. Secrets are discovered, truths uncovered, and Catherine realises that maybe there was something more to her mother, something that her familiy has kept from her.

How long a shadow can a dead woman cast?

Isa and May

Margaret Forster

Isamay's unusual name comes from her two very different grandmothers, Isa and May, who were both present at her birth and who have both formed and influenced her whole life in very particular ways. Now almost thirty, Isamay is trying to write a thesis about grandmothers in history but is instead constantly ambushed by the startling secrets her own family has been keeping. When disturbing truths are revealed that force Isamay to examine her own certainties, will her grandmothers be able to build a bridge across the generations?

Over

Margaret Forster

Don and Louise's eighteen-year-old daughter Miranda has died in a sailing accident. While Louise takes steps to move on with her life, Don cannot come to terms with the chain of events that led to her death. Instead, he is determined to bring someone to account. The surviving children handle the loss of their sister better than their parents, but what they can't handle is their family being torn apart...

Taut, heartbreaking and immensely moving, Over is a novel about love and loss, grief and hope, pain and resolution, and about what happens to human beings when tragedy strikes like lightening.

Keeping the World Away

Margaret Forster

Lost, found, stolen, strayed, sold, fought over... This engrossing, beautifully crafted novel follows the fictional adventures, over a hundred years, of an early 20th-century painting and the women whose lives it touches.

It opens with bold, passionate Gwen, struggling to be an artist, leaving for Paris where she becomes Rodin's lover and paints a small, intimate picture of a quiet corner of her attic room.

Then there's Charlotte, a dreamy intellectual Edwardian girl, and Stella, Lucasta, Ailsa and finally young Gillian, who share an unspoken desire to have for themselves a tranquil golden place like that in the painting.

Quintessential Forster, this is a novel about women's lives, about what it means and what it costs to be both a woman and an artist, and an unusual, compelling look at a beautiful painting and its imagined afterlife.

Is There Anything You Want?

Margaret Forster

What do Mrs H., Rachel, Edwina, Ida, Sarah, Dot, Chrissie have in common? They're all women, but they're fat, thin, old, young, married or single - and appear as diverse as human nature can be. But they are all survivors. This enthralling novel follows the ripples that go out into ordinary lives that have been changed by a shared experience, all connected by the same hospital clinic in a small Northern town.

This is a novel about what it means to live in the shadow of disease, and with scars, whether mental or physical. From the marvellous ambivalence of the title question, it leaves us with a whole lot more to consider about life and its infinite variety.

Georgy Girl

Margaret Forster

Georgy is young, gregarious and fun - she is also large, self-confessedly ugly and desperate for love. Georgy bears her fate bravely as she alternates between playing the fool and humbling herself before Meredith, her pretty, callous flatmate, although when James, middle-aged socialite and self-imposed 'Uncle', asks Georgy to become his mistress, she is tempted to accept. Then Meredith announces that she is pregnant and Jos, the expectant father, decides he is in love with Georgy...

Mothers' Boys

Margaret Forster

The attack on fifteen-year-old Joe Kennedy was particularly squalid and vicious. Sheila Armstrong's grandson Leo, usually a quiet, well-behaved boy, was found holding a knife. Harriet Kennedy cannot cope with her son's continuing pain; Sheila, who reared Leo, cannot bear the lasting guilt. In a powerful and moving tale of suffering and forgiveness, the two women confront the complex range of emotions that motherhood entails.

Lady's Maid

Margaret Forster

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.

The Battle For Christabel

Margaret Forster

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.

Private Papers

Margaret Forster

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.

Significant Sisters

Margaret Forster

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.

Have The Men Had Enough?

Margaret Forster

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

Diary Of An Ordinary Woman

Margaret Forster

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.

Biography

Born in Carlisle, Margaret Forster was 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, Over and The Unknown Bridesmaid. She also wrote bestselling memoirs – Hidden Lives, Precious Lives and, most recently, My Life in Houses – and biographies. She was married to writer and journalist Hunter Davies and lived in London and the Lake District. She died in February 2016, just before her last novel, How to Measure a Cow, was published.