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Diary Of An Ordinary Woman [Paperback]

Margaret Forster
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

4 Mar 2004

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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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099449285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099449287
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A highly enjoyable read: well-informed, gripping...an overview of the period seen from the underside" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Not only is the background of social and political change meticulously accurate...but there is everything one would expect from a well-kept diary. This is fiction: yet it is true" (Guardian)

"A beautifully crafted novel about the cost of war... Forster is as distinguished a biographer and memoir - writer as she is a novelist. She is an old hand at making a story out of the fragments of a life" (Daily Telegraph)

"We believe in Millicent whole-heartedly and come to love her - she has a heroism that George Eliot would recognise. It may be fiction, but it's also - convincingly, tragically and often exhilaratingly - real life" (Independent on Sunday)

"A richly textured, skilfully structured and highly enjoyable novel by an experienced writer at the peak of her powers" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

'I rushed through this novel and enjoyed it enormously - what she experienced in her very "ordinariness" was shared by thousands of real women of her generation' Val Hennessey, Daily Mail

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An "Ordinary" but very interesting woman 27 Oct 2004
By A Customer
A clever book I read in one sitting. What makes the diary of an "Ordinary" woman so compulsive? The diarist, Millicent King, is an engaging character with a surprisingly modern mindset who sometimes makes what must have been considered racy life choices - she is a woman well ahead of her time.

No passive product of a Victorian upbringing - she is an intelligent, fiesty and determindly independent person and following her life gives us an intriging insight into how her generation coped with the awful tragedy of two world wars. Although I was often moved to tears, her diary entries are also highly amusing - Millicent often being as opinionated and judgemental as a spoiled child.

The other characters are just as strong and interesting and you long to know more of them. Can't say more than this without giving plot details away.

Like other reviewers, I ignored the words "A Novel" on the front cover - you can't and don't want to believe this is fiction.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Millicent King isn't real?! 6 Oct 2003
By Kate
What a rollercoaster of a day! I finished this book this morning and spent the next few hours grieving - both for the death of this remarkable woman and for the book/diary ending. I had so enjoyed 'knowing' Millicent and felt quite cut adrift to have 'lost' her. I admit it - I had NO idea that the diaries weren't real! I searched the internet to find out more about this amazing woman and her family, only to find that she is a fictional character! Of course seems obvious now - I just hadn't noticed the references to fiction on the book cover. This is a great book - the emotional ambiguities and twists & turns of Millicent's life were, for me, devastatingly real, making this an intense and powerfully engaging reading experience. Inspires reflection on past and present connections with my own mother, my grandmothers, great aunts etc, and a sharp (and uncomfortable) awareness of the ease with which we can, in our relative youth, disregard/dismiss their knowledge, perspective, experience and insight (as did the twins - Connie and Toby - to Millicent).
The rest of my day will be spent adjusting to the fact that there is no Millicent King!!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Millicent King 7 Nov 2003
I can never resist reading any book by Margaret Forster. I loved this book about the fictional character Millicent King. I couldn't put it down! It was so real it has been hard to accept that it is in fact a novel. But of course the story is that of a thousand women who lived through two world wars and whose lives have spanned the century.
Millicent King's life related to that of my mother and grandmothers, to my aunts and uncles and cousins - to all who lived through war and suffered the consequences.
I think that Margaret Forster is a brilliant author and may she continue to write on and on ....
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and gripping! 26 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Margaret Forster is definitely one of my favourite authors. Everything she writes is clever and thought-provoking, yet different from what has gone before. With this book she's achieved another success and I recommend it highly. The diary format follows the life of "an ordinary woman" through most of the 20th century, and how cleverly the style changes to reflect age and experience! On the face of it you might think the life of a woman who never married and had no children or successful career would be dull. Far from it - Millicent King faces life bravely, survives many tragedies, comes up trumps when it matters - and along the way you find yourself identifying with her and understanding her generation better than you did before.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ordinary, but interesting woman indeed 24 July 2003
I relished every sentence of Diary of an Ordinary Woman. The clarity and honesty of Millicent Kings' diary entries are engaging and, at times, very moving. For a modern day woman, Millicent's diaries, which span practically the entire twentieth century, provide a context in which the minutae of our own 'ordinary' lives can be evaluated. An excellent and compelling read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good travel read. 15 May 2008
I read this book while travelling on the trains and was just captured by the attention to detail and by the narrater's talent for recording - yes, this book is a diary and what a witty acount you get. I found it hard not to think about the accounts in the book and how I sympathised with the main protagonist - you'll absolutely love it. A well deserved five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Marks for Ordinary Woman's Diary 16 Aug 2010
Forster's research has paid off. It makes this novel feel alive. References, such as, to Mrs. Dalloway being a new book make the diary entries feel topical. However, some entries feel rather contrived.

This book was very funny in parts e.g. ,"15 January 1915 - When Mother told me something nice was going to happen soon I thought she meant that we were at last to have a dog, but it was twins."

There are some very moving moments as well, such as when Millicent, in her eighties, is part of the human chain around Greenham in 1982.

The book is well structured. Through the diary entries, which are interspersed with commentary in italics, Millicent comes alive. She is not a celebrity. She is an ordinary woman who records part of her life for the Mass Observation Project, as many ordinary people did. And ,like the Nella Lasts of this world, Millicent King is no ordinary woman, which is exactly Forster's point!

Written in Forster's inimitable style, this novel is a compelling read for those who are curious about seeing ordinary people's lives recorded contemporaneously.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A really lovely read
Published 19 days ago by maureen peacock
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful tale of an "ordinary" woman's life
A beautiful tale of an "ordinary" woman's life, in a time when ordinary meant living through two world wars and seeing half your family die or suffer through the rest of... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Samantha Miriam Gore
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, illuminating and enriching
Absolutely could not put this down! Am now buying a copy for my sister as consider this essential reading - and a real gift to share with her.
Published 2 months ago by Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
This was an excellent read. I couldn't put it down and was very disappointed when it ended. Definitely recommend it.
Published 5 months ago by Dawn
5.0 out of 5 stars Could our ordinariness seek to enthral others too!
After discovering Margaret Forster fairly recently I can't get enough of her books, and this one did not fail to live up to her standard of being able to just get lost in her story... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr Kenneth Ware
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely absorbing
It is hard to remind yourself that this is fiction and not a real diary. A fascinating read - I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ms F. Cole
3.0 out of 5 stars Diary of an ordinary woman
I was so disappointed in this book, I had read the first chapter & thought that it really was the diary of an ordinary woman but it wasn't, it was a fabrication.
Published 18 months ago by Chcuko
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted novel, but not for me
I started reading this book in July 2012. I finished it mid-February 2013. This probably tells you a lot about my relationship with it. Read more
Published 18 months ago by CaroleHeidi
5.0 out of 5 stars Another bittersweet gem
I love Margaret Forster's books, and this one was a real page turner. Some might say too many amazing coincidences but I kept saying OMG as something else extraordinary happened. Read more
Published 18 months ago by TangoCharlie
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent condition but average plot
I cannot fault the company that sent this novel to me. The plot has some interesting twists and it is interesting from a social history point of view but, to me, it was too... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mrs. F. M. Dunn
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