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The Battle For Christabel Paperback – 7 Oct 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099455633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099455639
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 358,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"As the characters battle for possession of Christabel, Margaret Forster catches every note and nuance of good intention, misplaced motive and downright selfishness-a remarkable achievement" (Financial Times)

"Forster has the essential capacity to see everyone's point of view... In that territory of dread and reconciliation which is the family, Forster reigns supreme" (Guardian)

"Enticingly written-a compelling read" (Time Out)

"Motherhood is taken out, held up to the light and given a vigorous shaking-a book with impact" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Poignant, impeccably written-especially heart-rending because it is so believable" (Company)

Book Description

'Wonderfully rich... Nobody explores the way we live with more intelligence, art or humanity than she does' - Scotsman

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By bookpike on 12 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
A beautifully orchestrated story. The narrator takes you through her own journey and struggle with the concept and reality of motherhood and nurturing. It's very cleverly written the personality of the dead Rowena cuts through the narrator's version of events. Rowena is a really irritating character, directionless, somewhat whiney but her redeeming feature is her willingness to commit herself to motherhood even if it means as a single parent.

The rest of the book deals with the tricky emotional mess that ensues as Christabel is adopted by strangers and as her middle-class family looks on appalled but not wanting to commit themselves to take care of her.

Forster always feels completely in charge and within her powers as she writes. It is a faultlessly accomplished piece of work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
A heart-breaking but in certain ways curiously uplifting story about the adoption process. Rowena, the drifting and dreamy young daughter of a wealthy Scots family, decides to become a single mother. Unfortunately, she makes no arrangements for what will happen to her child if she dies or is disabled. And when Christabel is five, Rowena dies in a climbing accident. Christabel's elderly grandmother and musician aunt do not feel they can take her in, and Rowena's closest friend Isobel also feels that she is not cut out to be a mother (and, as an international interpreter, is reluctant to base herself wholly in England while rearing a child). So Christabel is put up for adoption. Forster provides a chilling view of social services, of overworked social workers who become unable to see children as individuals, and presents a fair view of the short-term fostering system: Christabel's foster mother, Betty is in many ways an admirable and brave woman, but as a working-class, television-obsessed woman who sees anyone interested in culture or 'posh' as a 'snob', is in no way the right mother for the intelligent Christabel, who nevertheless ends up bonding intensely with her, to the misery of her grandmother and aunt and Isobel. And Forster also provides much insight into the eventual adoption process and how and why families are chosen - Christabel's situation is complicated by the fact that she is part Jamaican, though reared only by her mother's side of the family.

I enjoyed this book a lot, though it made me extremely sad (the first time I read it I couldn't get to the end, and had to go back to it a year later when I was feeling stronger!).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kathy on 27 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I am amazed this book only has 2 reviews on amazon - it was the first Margaret Forster book I read and has had me hooked on her writing ever since - maybe it was published too early to be picked up on a wave of amazon enthusiasm - if you have overlooked it but love the way Forster creates her characters then get a copy and read it - I would rate it as maybe her best book ever and the subject matter is compelling, in a bizarre ' this can't be real but actually this sort of stuff probably does happen to real people all the time' sort of a way!
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I have fond memories of reading Margaret Forsters' books years ago, and wanted to read them again, and new ones that I had not read previously.

This book, first published in 1991, tells the story of Isobel, whose friend Rowena has a child out of wedlock and then is tragically killed in an accident. The battle of the title is over the adoption of Rowena's daughter Christabel. Set in an England where the inter-racial and cultural values were, in the 1990s, strongly considered in any family setting, this story is still as relevant today as it was some twenty years ago.

Isobel, at the beginning of the book, is very angry - with Rowena, with her life, and with the whole situation. By the end of the book, she seems to have come to terms with the way life is, and to be more accepting of the things life throws at her. The beauty of this book, as with all Margaret Forsters' works, is the analysis of the personalities of the characters involved - the books are stories about people, their lives, their struggles. The reader comes into the characters' lives briefly, touches those lives, and is touched by them, and then fades away as the characters' lives go on. The stories are beautifully told, wonderfully engaging, and totally enthralling, and leave the reader thinking about them long after they have put the book away. That's the continuing attraction of Forsters' works, and why they stand to be read and re-read so often, and never go out of date or style. I shall be looking out for more of the author's works. This is totally recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This book constantly pulls the rug of self-righteousness and sanctimony right from under the reader. But it isn't at all shocking, or experimental or tricky, it's a straightforward narrative of a child left orphaned and her relations & mother's friend who don't want her but have strong opinions about who should have her. It dawns on you as you read on that nobody in this book is perfectly good but nobody is perfectly bad, either - and the narrator, whom one suspects at the beginning to be an unreliable one, is progressively revealed as a good person under it all. Her snobbery about Maureen, the social worker, is very hard to take, and her attitude to the foster-mother Betty is negative from the word go -not that Betty is an angel either. Prospective readers should be assured that there is a happy ending for the child, but that nothing happens without compromises. I think I'm a bit like foster-mother Betty;what made me gasp in wonder was the fact of a grandmother and an aunt letting a grandchild and niece be adopted rather than take her themselves under whatever conditions they could manage. In that sense, perhaps the book's premise was a little unrealistic - though maybe there are people like that out there.
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