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Description - Good Wives? by 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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099283775
ISBN-10: 0099283778
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 23mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Oct-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Good Wives? by Margaret Forster

Book Reviews - Good Wives? by Margaret Forster

UK Kirkus Review » Forster's literary reputation rests in part on her several biographies, so it is not surprising that she has chosen to explore what being a 'good wife' means - and if a woman should be a wife at all - by looking at the lives of three remarkable women, and then reflecting on each in turn in comparison with her own ideas and experience. Mary Moffat, married in 1845 to the famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone, carried her marriage 'to obey' to the extreme, journeying with her beloved husband in the most horrific of conditions, often pregnant and with small children. She was sent to Britain with the children in near destitution for four years, missing Livingstone dreadfully. Then Livingstone insisted on her accompanying him on his latest Zambesi expedition, which entailed her leaving the children, including her latest small infant, in Britain. Out there she died of some untreatable form of malaria. In Forster's reflections on this life, she feels that if she herself were torn between husband and young children, the latter would have to come first. Fanny Stevenson was a tough and ambitious American who had a history of independence as an estranged wife and mother of three children and had already had a shot at earning her own living before she met and fell in love with Robert Louis Stevenson. They were finally able to marry in 1880, and they spent much time travelling because of his ill-health. Fanny was very loving to his fond parents, so Forster reflects on the wifely roles of nursing, and relating to in-laws, giving examples from her own life. Jennie Lee was 25 when she entered Parliament in 1929, and mesmerized 'the entire male House of Commons'. She was in love with politics and had no intention of marrying or ever having children. (Forster thinks that wives have the 'right' to remain childless.) But she and her lover Nye Bevan needed to marry, otherwise gossip would damage both their careers. They were equals, and Jennie refused any of the traditional wifely roles - she brought her mother from Scotland to come and keep house. She soon saw that Nye had outstripped her, and when he became a Cabinet minister, the balance of the marriage changed, and she needed to protect him more - an aspect of marriage which doesn't appeal to Forster. In today's climate she would have preferred to be a 'partner' instead of a wife. This is an interesting and lively approach to a perennially fascinating subject, and the combination of biography and personal reflection ensures that it retains the reader's attention throughout. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Margaret Forster

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?, Over and Isa and May, as well as bestselling memoirs (Hidden Lives and Precious Lives) and biographies. She is married to writer and journalist Hunter Davies and lives in London and the Lake District.

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