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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The domestic is dramatic
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...
Published on 12 Oct. 2006 by bookpike

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
This book is not a bad read but it is a bit dated. Definitely not her best work in my opinon
Published 22 months ago by Pippi


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The domestic is dramatic, 12 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The Battle For Christabel (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
4.0 out of 5 stars The Drama of Having a Child, 15 Nov. 2011
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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!). There is a great deal of interesting reflection on what it means to be a mother, if children should always be raised by two parents, and the position of the extended family. Class issues, and issues of colour were also interestingly explored, as was the question of why people marry. The only thing I felt could have made the book even better was a bit of multiple narration - Isobel was certainly an interesting woman, and good company (if not immediately sympathetic at times) but it would have been good to see the situation from other people's eyes, at least for brief periods.

But this is a small criticism: in many ways this is a masterful and very thought-provoking book; one of Forster's best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended, 27 May 2010
By 
kathy "kathy" (central scotland) - See all my reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Battle for Christabel, 27 April 2013
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Battle For Christabel (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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5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional but uplifting page-turner, 15 April 2014
This review is from: The Battle For Christabel (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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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moving,, 27 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
As I read I found myself sympathising with the writer, and finding the characters incredibly believable. I found the writing so effective I felt I was entering into the story, and becoming a part of it. Margaret Forster is able to see every point from many different views, and her style of writing is immaculate and effective. A very moving story, told very convincingly. A must read for any fan of Forsters, or of love stories, as this one became.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner., 14 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Battle For Christabel (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book with a profound insight to the workings of Social Services and how little we understand how they can change lives forever. A real page turner and hard to put down. Margaret Forster never disappoints and this book is no exception. If you have ever considered adoption or fostering a child then please read this book. I bought this book for my daughter who has herself fought long and hard to foster two vulnerable children and has experienced Social Services at their very best and worst. She told me she was totally gripped by the story and related to it every step of the way. The characters are brilliantly portrayed, especially the feisty grandmother. Loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 9 Jun. 2014
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A most enjoyable read with many unexpected twists and turns. A good book to take on holiday or a read before you sleep.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, 5 July 2013
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This book is not a bad read but it is a bit dated. Definitely not her best work in my opinon
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'that one and only urge towards motherhood I have ever had', 8 Jan. 2013
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Battle For Christabel (Paperback)
Having experienced the issue of adoption in my own family - a relative trying to get custody of a child who (like Christabel) was ultimately adopted away by Social Services - I could totally identify with this book.

Narrator Isabel writes in a conversational style; both beginning and ending at the same point in time, shortly after losing any hope of custody of Christabel to the chosen adoptive parents. She then relates the whole saga of Christabel: from her own friendship with the child's mother Rowena, and her profound irritation with her laziness and irresponsibility. Her disapproval as the promiscuous Rowena decides to give up on men and give all her love to a child; her 'using' a West Indian admirer to get pregnant... And then Rowena's early years as a mother - devoted yet prone to depression - and her fatal accident, leaving her child with no obvious carer.

The fiercesome Mrs Blake (Rowena's elderly mother) is adamant she can't take her on, but nonetheless uses her money and education to hamper Social Services' efforts to find her a home. Rowena's sister and narrator Isabel are both career women, unwilling to give up their freedom...but as Isabel spends more time with Christabel, she finds her feelings are changing, but too late.

Margaret Forster brings personalities to life, and also the uncertainties that go with adoption. The reader wonders if Christabel would actually be better off with Isabel (who comes across as a pretty sharp and intolerant individual) than her adoptive one. Were Social Services just out for Christabel's best interests; how far were their actions shaped by personal feelings (dislike of Mrs Blake) or official guidelines set in stone (the determination that mixed-race Christabel must go to a black family) ?

As Isabel observes: 'Nobody will ever be able to say for certain that it was better for Christabel to go to the Carmichaels than to come to us. And it is that knowledge which hurts most, the knowledge that we will never know, that we will never be given the chance to find out what kind of mother I, or what kind of father Fergus, would have made. Perhaps I would have fulfilled myself in ways I do not even know.'
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The Battle For Christabel
The Battle For Christabel by Margaret Forster (Paperback - 7 Oct. 2004)
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