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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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099449287
ISBN-10: 0099449285
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 25mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Mar-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Veteran novelist Margaret Forster's latest work is presented as the diary of a real woman, Millicent King, whose life spanned the century from 1901 to 2000. An introductory chapter describes Forster supposedly being contacted by Millicent's niece and then going to meet the old woman herself, being astonished by the scope and character of the diaries and deciding to edit them for publication. It's a postmodern twist to what at first seems to be a straightforward fictional diary. Millicent's story begins when she is 13, at the start of the First World War, with a lively evocation of the fears and hardships of the time. Millicent is a girl of strong character - it's not easy being a vegetarian and pacifist in 1914 - and Forster perfectly captures the passion and resentment of adolescence. From there we follow Millicent over the years as she goes to teacher training college, is cast into poverty by her father's death, spends some months in Italy as a governess and becomes involved in various faltering relationships before finally finding a man who she thinks she can spend her life with. In her character as editor, Forster explains how she has abridged the diaries, summarising events where necessary and adding the results of her background research. Like all real diarists but very few fictional ones, Millicent does not include everything that happens to her - she often takes important things for granted, changes topic suddenly and omits really painful events altogether. In her bridging passages, Forster explains how she has reconstructed what happened, but there are some things we never know, and many of Millicent's feelings can only be guessed at. She's still a beautifully drawn character, and it's clear that one of Forster's main aims is to show how people change over the course of a lifetime while retaining some inner core of identity. Millicent is often impressively brave and forthright, but we still see how many limitations - some recognized by her and some not - hem her in and prevent her from realizing many of her dreams. As she suffers and grows older she shuts off more and more parts of herself, retreating into timidity and loneliness with sad inevitability. This is a remarkable novel. Forster not only evokes a woman and a century with faultless clarity, she also - a much rarer achievement - makes us question how we know the past, each other and ourselves, and how our lives develop, trammelled by circumstance and our own failings and weaknesses but always capable of the odd, astonishing moment of joy. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Margaret Forster

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? and most recently Over, 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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