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Keeping the World Away Paperback – 1 Mar 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099496860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099496861
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Forster's style is easy and unpretentious. In a brief paragraph she can create a character we care about, a story we long to see resolved" (Sue Gaisford Independent on Sunday)

"Few authors share Margaret Forster's extraordinary ability to transform the ordinary day-to-day activities of unremarkable people into compelling fiction" (Daily Mail)

"A fine novel... an inspired reflection on the redemptive potential of art" (Mail on Sunday)

"The characters are fully developed and differentiated...there is harrowing emotional insight; it also contains elements of real comedy" (Matthew Dennison The Times)

"Her historical skills are, as always, matched by her marvellous empathy... A finely crafted novel" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

'Forster-lovers will not be disappointed by her depiction of a cornered creativity and its persisting power to subvert and enchant' - Sally Vickers, Guardian

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By surevu on 5 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
I must admit I'm not one for romantic soppy novels, so, when I read the dust jacket notes for this book I was unconvinced this would not descend into that sort of a book.
I was, however pleasantly surprised. A lot of research had been done into the art world of the 19th and early 20th century which coloured the whole atmosphere of this work and made it a very plausible story. The author carries the reader along on a journey from painter via various owners, of a painting which has a profound effect on all of them. It is well told and easy to read, I can't honestly say that it was a 'can't put it down' book,for me, but it is well constucted.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Mar 2006
Format: Hardcover
A beatifully wrought story of a seemingly modest but intriguing work of art making its way through the 20th century, and touching the lives of different women along the way. The concept may seem academic, but Forster's perception, zest and powers of empathy make it a delightful and surprising journey, peopled with characters it is delightful to stay with. A very satisfying read from one of our best living authors.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Sharpers on 4 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Forster is right back on form with this novel. I was sadly disappointed with her last one Is There Anything You Want but Keeping The World Away is a brilliant return to form. The story of the painting and the women whose lives it touched was grippint, like a short series of linked novellas, the women all very different but all connected through ownership of a small painting.
This book makes it clear why Margaret Fiorster is one author whose novels I will always buy as soon as they come out, she is incapable of writing a bad book, her disappointing novel was only disappointing against her usual high standards but still a book lesser authors would struggle to write.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 11 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
Until now I was never a great fan of Margaret Forster but I found this book utterly absorbing. The effect of a seemingly unassuming little painting on the women whose lives it touches makes fascinating reading. Each of the characters is convincingly drawn and in such detail that, unlike other books of this type where, just as I become interested, the main protagonist disappears from the pages to be replaced by a stranger, here the transition is so seamless that I barely missed the previous character before becoming immersed in the next.

The story is laced with coincidences - generally best avoided in literature as they can seem contrived. The chance of two identical Harrods trunks appearing in lost property at Victoria Station is quite plausible - most travellers returning from Paris to London in the early 20th Century would have passed through Victoria Station, and the stylish traveller would doubtless choose a trunk from Harrods. But the chance meetings between women who owned the painting (I can't say more without giving away details of the story and possibly spoiling it for those who've not yet read the book) could have felt contrived. Instead, they provided a poignant strand linking the women's stories. How little they realised how close they came to the painting they had lost!

For me it was a haunting story that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Margaret Forster fans will love it anyway. But if, like me, you have found some of her other work lacking that special 'something', give this book a try. It's special. I loved it and thoroughly recommend it.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
A novel following the journey of a small but intriguing painting through the 20th century, this could have been a weighty, academic or predictable novel. In Forster's hands it is affecting, intruiging and powerful - all of this achieved without recourse to mannerism, bodice-ripping or other devices common to historical fiction. Few living writers are as effortlessy persuasive as Forser, whether on the subject of art or the perspectives of women through time. This is a literary novel, but at the same time a great and surprising read. I loved it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thelma Batchelor on 17 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
I am a fan of Margaret Forster so I read this book expecting to enjoy it and I did enjoy it very much. This fictional story starts with a very factual character, the artist Gwen John, sister to her more famous artist brother Augustus John.

A simple picture painted by Gwen John is the theme running through this book from beginning to end, and what happens to this picture as it is handed down (often in mysterious circumstances) to different generations of women over a period of more than 100 years.

How one little picture happens to be transported from France to London to Cornwall to a remote Scottish island, back to London and ultimately to France is intriguing to say the least. And all one can actually know about this picture is a small rendering of it on the front cover of the book. I looked up on the internet to find out where the picture is now but apparently it is currently in the hands of a private owner.

I found the book to be a real page turner and so most interesting and entertaining.

I now look forward with relish to reading Margaret Forster's two later novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Isola on 28 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading 'Keeping the World Away' I couldn't stop thinking about it. The novel is a fictional account of the travels of an actual painting by Gwen John and what it means to the lives it touches. The small canvas, a still life of a corner of the artist's attic studio is painted for her lover Rodin, the notorious sculptor for whom she models, to show him her true inner self. Rodin never sees the painting and over a period of 100 years, it falls into the hands of six women, all searching for more independence and meaning in their exsistence.

Forster's rendition of Gwen John's life is painstakingly researched and the book is written in an easy and unpretentious style. Within the series of well developed plot lines connecting the characters, who are all drawn together by a shared spirit, there could have been too many coincidences to be acceptable, but the author doesn't neglect to tie her loose ends together.

There is a better view of this small piece of work on the internet; the one on the back cover of my paperback reflects entirely different colours. I would love to see and touch the original painting, that's how much I loved 'Keeping the World Away'.
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