2016 has started off very badly with luminaries of the arts vanishing to the Cultural Centre in the Sky. I was not a Bowie fan but appreciate his impact on pop and music culture; Frank Finlay, a great actor; the utter sadness of losing the glorious Alan Rickman; dear lovely Sir Terry Wogan - what is happening I ask myself?
And now, one of my all time favourite authors, Margaret Forster whose books I have read since her first Georgy Girl was published in the so called Swinging Sixties. I have been very indignant over the years at the fact that she has not been acknowledged as the great writer she is, purely because she shunned the celebrity circuit and did not actively promote her books. She just wrote, published them and hoped that you and I would like them. I loved them and, with a few exceptions which are inevitable in such a long writing life, enjoyed them all.
I am not sure how many of her earlier books are still in print as I gather she wanted to keep some of them unavailable. Perhaps she was dissatisfied with them as her writing changed over the years, but they are part of her body of work and I have re-read many of them and still found them readable. Of course, some of them will have dated slightly because of the era in which they were written but the characters still live and breathe and draw you in.
I have two or three which are special favourites: The Travels of Maudie Tipstaff sits on my shelves, a battered old copy I have had for years. Maudie lives in Scotland, she has recently lost her husband and she decides to take herself off on a visit to her three children. One daughter lives a middle class life in Hampstead, the second is a rather feckless, irresponsible mother living in the country and her son, who is secretly her favourite child, lives a Bohemian existance on Ibiza. So off she goes. Each visit is chronicled faithfully, the disappovals of life style, the pursing of lips at extravagances and laziness, her horror at being marooned on Ibiza with nothing to do and with a son who could not care less if she was there or not, it is utterly beguiling. And then there is a little twist at the end which totally took me by surprise on my first reading. It is a simply wonderful book and if you have not read any by Margaret Forster, then I suggest you start with this one. (Out of print, sadly)
Another title high on my list is The Bride of Lowther Fell. A city based woman has to look after her nephew after his parents are killed and decides to change her life and heads off to the North. Shades of Bronte here with a mad woman living down the road and a slightly menacing young farmer who develops an obsession with her. Again, wonderful stuff. (Have just checked on Amazon and does not seem to be in print so do keep an eye out for second hand copies. I found mine several years ago in a jumble sale at Harwich).
Her non fiction is excellent too and her biography of Daphne du Maurier a superb work and I could not put it down even though I found the subject fairly unlikable. This is available.
Please nip over to her Amazon page and check out all the books that are currently in print and yours for the click of a button. If you have still to discover her writing then you have many happy months ahead of you and I envy you your discovery.
Here are links to books by Margaret Forster that I have reviewed on Random:
On the Unknown Bridesmaid http://randomjottings.typepad.com/random_jottings_of_an_ope/2013/03/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-la.html
Not quite sure why this is such a long title!
On Keeping the World Away http://randomjottings.typepad.com/random_jottings_of_an_ope/2007/04/keeping_the_wor.html
I gather there is one more book to come and I await its publication with great anticipation. A simply wonderful writer, fluid, elegant, clean, no fuss, no hyperbole, each sentence beautifully crafted, not a wasted dot or a comma - how I shall miss her.