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My Life in Houses Hardcover – 6 Nov 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (6 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070118910X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701189105
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.4 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"I was truly moved by Margaret Forster's ingeniously structured and beautifully written memoir... A really wonderful book" (Juliet Nicolson Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

"A beautiful exploration of her life in relation to the homes she has made'" (Rachel Joyce Observer BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

"Such a clever idea. It's a memoir sited in bricks and mortar... social and personal history spliced together" (Penelope Lively Guardian BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

"Until its shocking, throat-catching end, this latest book is a deceptively simple trek evoking everywhere [Margaret Forster] has lived" (Melanie Reid The Times)

"Reads like one of Forster's well-loved novels: full of sharp observation and gentle wit" (Bel Mooney Daily Mail)

"In both books and homes, we find wry humour and a great deal of poignancy" (Sarah Franklin Sunday Express)

"Like sitting down for tea with a highly intelligent woman and chatting, not so much about "a room of one's own" as "a home of one's own"... fascinating and touching" (Spectator)

"This is a lovely and touching evocation of what home means to one woman, and within this is a universality that many will connect with" (Shirley Whiteside Herald)

"A meditation on our emotional connection with houses, it is also a perceptive portrayal of changing domestic life in 20th and 21st-century Britain" (Juanita Coulson Lady)

"Lovely, insightful memoir" (Simple Things)

"A wonderful, and affecting book about what makes a home, and the effect where we live has on how we live our lives" (Bookseller, Editor's Pick)

"An enthralling account of her relationship with the houses she has loved... I think many people reading it will respond -- as I did -- to her very personal bond with the houses she has occupied, changed and drawn comfort from... and it is so movingly honest" (Virginia Nicholson, author of SINGLED OUT)

"Even if you’re not familiar with Forster’s novels, you’ll love the nostalgic trawl through seven houses over 70-odd years" (Sophie King Sidmouth Herald)

Book Description

What does home mean to you?

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sabina on 14 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Margaret Forster began fantasising about the sort of house she'd like to live in when she was seven years old and living with her parents, brother and sister on the new Raffles Estate in Carlisle. The house, always kept prisitne by their mother was very small, and despite the boast of a bathroom, the lavatory was in an outhouse. Margaret liked going to play at her friends' privately owned houses. When her art homework was to paint the view from her bedroom window, instead of using grey, black and brown to paint the dreary view of coal bunker and backs of other council houses, she painted "what I would have liked to have been seeing." As she never invited her 'private house' friends back to Orton Road, she felt free to paint a lavish lawn, with fountain and an apple tree with a swing. But then came a sense of shame, when the best picture was painted by a girl whose view, truthfully rendered in shades of grey and black was more dreary and depressing than her own. "My own fantasy view had been ridiculous."

Writing a memoir filtered through her relationship with various homes she has lived in actually makes for a surprisingly intimate read. Oxford, marriage, work, motherhood, illness, a writing career all took shape in relation to houses and their inhabitants. Her Oxford digs were run by two eccentric sisters, one of whom smiled but lived in a state of supressed fury, yet Margaret loved her small room there (much more than the one at Somerville College ), which "wrapped itself round me as securely as the old-fashioned eiderdown". A flat in Hampstead's Vale of Health provided the newly married couple a welcome sojourn from the demands of establishing themselves in working lives, but the real challenge was buying a wreck in Boscastle Road, which housed a sitting tennant at the top.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Book Reader on 22 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an unusual autobiography. Margaret Forster tells us a lot more about herself than she has ever done, as she describes the houses she has known. There is intimacy and humour, even a she describes her illness. It left me feeling wistful and very grateful for all her writing over the years.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Dec. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Margaret Forster's writing for many years and read most of her books, especially the non-fiction. This book, therefore, as a semi-autobiographical volume, does contain some information and anecdotes about the author's life that I had previously read. I didn't really have a problem with that as there is plenty of new material and also as it becomes obvious as the book progresses that she will not be writing a standard autobiography.

The author tells her life story around the basis of the houses in which she has lived. The houses don't just provide a background for her life but also each reflect something that the author wishes to say about class and social aspiration. We see her first house and then share with her in the huge change as they moved into an up to date council house. We then share in her experiences of renting in London and her tales of fellow lodgers together with an interlude in a Malta and a holiday home in Britain. The author feels that houses are important to people and reflect more than just their disposable income so she shares how these houses became home and what made them important to her.

This book is written in a light-hearted and anecdotal way but it is the story of the life of a working class girl made good and how that is reflected in where she lives. I thought that the anecdotes of her life were enlightening (especially that of the Beatles who visited her home after her husband had written a biography of them). There are lots of fascinating details about life in Carlisle and London since the war mixed in with the personal stories.

Having read this novel I am now reviewing my own life in the same way - it's an interesting and revealing way of looking at things.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Margaret Forster has always been a fine writer of precision about ordinary lives, creating very particular, sharply observed people in particular times and places who, because they are so specifically detailed, can stand for universals also.

Here, she writes her own autobiography, in many ways, but through the lens of her own precise fascination with the nuts and bolts of the material world we live in. Specifically, in this case the nuts and bolts being the houses we live in, the houses which shape, define, stand for and hold our lives in place and time.

The book (which I was very happy to receive as an advance review copy from the publishers) starts with a quote from D.H. Lawrence which outlines the premise:

"The house determines the day-to-day, minute-to-minute quality, colour , atmosphere, pace of one's life; it is the framework of what one does, of what one can do, of one's relations with people.............looking back on my life, I tend to see it divided into sections which are determined by the houses in which I have lived, not by school, university, work, marriage, death, division, or war.
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