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Private Papers [Paperback]

Margaret Forster
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1986

To Penelope Butler the family was all, the sole ambition of her adult life. Three of her four daughters, however, had different ideas. Rosemary rejected it; Jess was destroyed by it; Celia found it eluded her. Only Emily pursued her mother's ideal, with disastrous results.

Penelope begins to record their family story as it unfolds. But when Rosemary discovers these private papers she is enraged by her mother's distortions of the truth and proceeds to tell the story from her perspective. From D-Day on into the turbulent post-war years, a picture emerges not only of a single family in all its complexities, but also of the changing world that shaped their lives.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099455625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099455622
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A brilliant, sometimes terrible novel about the generation war within a family, as witty and cool as it is heart-rending" (Auberon Waugh Daily Mail)

"Painful...gripping...her "private" story reaches far beyond the merely personal" (Observer)

Book Description

'This stuff of intimate family life is brilliantly presented, subtly and yet with unnerving directness' Susan Hill

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep and disturbing ring of truth. 27 April 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Forster does a masterful job in creating two very believable and credible characters, each of whom presents the "truth" about life inside a family structure. The mother, Penelope, believes in the sanctity of the family and its ability --- above all other institutions --- to shelter, protect and preserve. Penelope's eldest daughter Rosemary, however, sees things from a much more independent and modern viewpoint: a post-war childhood leading to a rejection of the pre-war social conventions. The writing is sure and solid, and the characters are flawed enough to be human and likeable. You're never quite sure which is the more truthful narrator (or who has the greater level of self-awareness), so there's a tautness to the storyline that serves the reader well. A highly, highly recommended book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absorbing read 30 April 2009
Format:Paperback
I found this novel absolutely gripping - Margaret Foster's understanding of human relationships is precise and piercing - a great read. Written from two perspectives (mother's and daughter's)it brings into focus the subtleties of a complex relationship and illustrates the shifting values across the generations. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and though tprovoking 1 April 2008
By MCB
Format:Paperback
A very wise and intuitive description of family relationships. It illustrates and emphasises how every aspect of life can be perceived and interpreted and misinterpreted in different ways by different observers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How children grieve 14 July 2008
By bebegee
Format:Paperback
I thought this story gave an insight as to how families cope with bereavement or perhaps more to the point it isn't until later life a child comes to recognise the true impact of a parent's death both upon themselves, their siblings and the surviving parent. The central character Rosemary, the eldest of 4 sisters, has gown up angry and rebellious. Much of her angst has been directed at her mother. As the story develops, she begins to feel softer and more appreciative towards how her mother managed the differing needs of four children!

Having been widowed myself with 3 young children - my heart went out to the mother in this story - what else could she have done for she did her best? But how hard it is for the children too. Margaret Forster so cleverly explores all the emotions of bereavement and the stages of grieving process. In the end there is a very nice touch as Rosemary finds a way of showing respect for her mother and at last makes peace with her past.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One family - two interpretations 12 May 2010
By Isola
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title, 'Private Papers', refers to a family history of five women; a widow and her four daughters. Penelope, abandoned as a baby has one ambition in life, to have a family. When her husband is killed, she is determined that the family unit must be protected and upheld, no matter what. With the passing years Penelope records a history of their family life, which her eldest daughter eventually comes accross - and so the story begins.

The novel has two strong narrators; Penelope, the widow with pre-war convictions and Rosemary, her eldest and unconventional daughter, who sets about over-turning her mother's side of the story by writing her own account of their lives. Both 'voices' shift from World War 11 to post Faulkland's war. It's a gripping read and an excellent social commentary.

I have only recently 'found' Margaret Forster, having just read 'Keeping the World Away', which was described on Radio Four as a 'forgotten classic'. Oh, I just loved it. This author truly deserves to be better known and more widely read. I am now about to help the cause by reading 'The Seduction of Mrs. Pendlebury'.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply interesting view of a family history. 26 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
To have the 'life' of the family viewed from the sentimental aspect of the mother, and the very modern jaundiced view of one of the daughters was fasinating.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing 2 July 2014
By J. King
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the first MF book I have read. Having looked at many of the the reviews for Private Papers, I was sure that I would enjoy it. I did enjoy the style of writing, swapping the first person narrative between the mother and daughter, which was easy to follow. However I found the story itself at best boring and at worst very depressing. I found it impossible to engage with the characters, especially Rosemary who is painfully negative about everything. The story itself is improbably crammed with disaster after disaster. I did read this book to the end, hoping for some sort of ending, good or bad, but unfortunately the end itself was very lame. This is the opposite of a life affirming story and I was relieved to finish it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Forster
I am a big fan of Margaret Forster's books and think this is probably the best one I have read. The characters are so real it is hard to believe this is fiction. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Jen M
5.0 out of 5 stars One to recommend
A good read. Very compulsive . Need to feel upbeat before reading as some parts are depressing. I couldn't put it down.
Published 2 months ago by Hilary Kidd
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into the secrets of female family life
This books tells the story of the life of a family - a mother with three daughters and in addition one adopted daughter. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Francesca Forsyth
5.0 out of 5 stars Pick your own truth.
Rosemary discovers her mother's account of their family life and, and as she reads, adds her own commentary. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Hils T
4.0 out of 5 stars A few problems with this one, but still good.
Although I did enjoy reading this Margaret Forster work, I didn't enjoy it as much as her other books. Read more
Published 15 months ago by shepherdess
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Dramas
An insight into an unconventional family, seen through the eyes of both the mother (who's decided to write the family history) and the eldest daughter. Read more
Published on 15 Nov 2011 by Kate Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 stars DIFFERENT VIEW ABOUT A SHARED PROBLEM
This was a well written book, which looked at the workings of a familly-mother and four daughters,also grandchildren,husbands and lovers come into the story as well. Read more
Published on 15 May 2011 by bibliophile
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