I am mainly using my Kindle while in Australia but I brought a few 'proper' books with me as well and as one of them was the latest Margaret Forster, I was determined to read and review before too long. I shall leave it behind for my daughter Kathryn as I am pretty sure she will enjoy it and it is time she was introduced to one of my favourite authors.
My first read by this author was back in the sixties, Georgy Girl, which was made into a film with Lyn Redgrave and James Mason (scary to realise that this was over forty years ago now) and, with few exceptions, I have read all her books since then, both fiction and non-fiction.
One theme which recurs over and over and again in her writing is family and family secrets and The Unknown Bridesmaid is once more the story of a member of a family who hides an incident she was involved in as a child and which colours the rest of her life.
Julia is asked to be a bridesmaid to her cousin Iris. Her mother sees this as a bit of a chore and an expense but Julia was thrilled even though her dress was not the pink she wanted and rather plain. The wedding is followed quickly by a funeral and then later a birth and, it is while looking after Iris's baby that an event occurs which effects Julia for the rest of her life.
I think I have to make it clear here that Julia is not a particularly likeable child - hard to get to know and with few friends, but it is also clear that her teenage years are troubled and riddled with guilt and anxiety.
The story is told in flashback - Julia is now 48 and a respected child pyschologist dealing with your girls behaving badly. Some steal, some run away from home, some are violent but Julia feels an empathy with them and understands their troubles. The past and the present gradually begin to merge into one and Julia realises that she has to finally own up to her bad behaviour when growing up and seek forgiveness. However, all is not as straightforward as it seems and Julia realises that the truth was not as bad as she feared.
Difficult to say more without giving details away and as a friend pointed out to me that I do sometimes do just that, I am trying to be circumspect. All I really need to say is that Margaret Forster has once again come up trumps with an insightful, perceptive and beautifully written book. Not saying it is a totally enjoyable story but once reading has started it is very difficult to put down until the final outcome is revealed.
My thanks to Chatto and Windus for my copy and the press release which came with the book states 'Consistently strong seller both front and backlist - her last three titles have sold an average of 50,000'.
I think Margaret Forster is underrated - she strikes me as being a modest and unassuming person, and I have rarely found interviews with her (of course I am probably totally wrong) and it is because of this low profile, unlike others such as Byatt, Mantel et al, that mean she is not appreciated as she should be.
Some of her earlier books are now out of print and I so hope that they find their way back into the public domain. I am thinking particularly of The Bride of Lowther Fell, The Travels of Maudie Tipstaff and Fenella Fizackerley. Mind you, I am writing this without checking on Amazon so once again, I could be wrong but it is a baking hot day here in Sydney and I just wish to get this up on Random.
If you have not read Forster before - please do try her books. You will not be disappointed.