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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Forster is family !
Loved this book. I agree with some other reviews that not much happens in it but nonetheless each night as I tottered up the stairs to bed I glanced at the book and knew that within a couple of minutes I would be surrounded by Margaret Forster's very real characters. The subject matter 'cancer' which initially held me back from starting this book, figured very little in...
Published on 8 Sept. 2012 by Soozanna

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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is there anything you want - Margaret Forster
As a previous Margaret Forster fan I picked up this book with enthusiasm, but as a health care worker I found it disturbing and depressing. Perhaps this was the intention and it certainly kept me turning the pages but ultimately this book describes women's lives being devastated by cancer, surrounded by dysfunctional relationships and fear, anger and...
Published on 15 Mar. 2006


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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is there anything you want - Margaret Forster, 15 Mar. 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
As a previous Margaret Forster fan I picked up this book with enthusiasm, but as a health care worker I found it disturbing and depressing. Perhaps this was the intention and it certainly kept me turning the pages but ultimately this book describes women's lives being devastated by cancer, surrounded by dysfunctional relationships and fear, anger and loneliness.
Whilst a diagnosis of cancer is never anything but devastating, many real people who survive cancer or live with the diagnosis of cancer find enormous strength within themselves and draw enormous support from relationships that become stronger because of discussing the things in life that really matter. I kept hoping that one of Forster's characters would find this strength and reach out to the others, but all her characters were isolated and lonely. This was a book about lives being destroyed by cancer rather than lives lived to the full despite cancer.
I would like to know what breast cancer survivors think of this book but I would feel too nervous lending it to them. Maybe it would make them feel they were not doing too badly in the same way that Rachel Cusk's ' A life's work" made me feel I wasn't such a bad mother after all! But I think it would just make them feel depressed.
There is no doubt however that Forster writes extremely perceptively about human emotions and experiences. The book has made me think differently about a human situation and this is always her great strength.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffering in Semi-Silence, 5 Mar. 2013
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
The blurb on the back of this book describes the seven female characters as survivors. To a degree this is true. Ida, Edwina and Rachel have all survived breast cancer; Sarah has been told her breast cysts are almost certainly benign; Dot copes valiantly with a crippled husband and a difficult relationship with her daughter Sarah; Chrissie has managed to get a high-ranking job as a cancer specialist in a competitive world; and Mrs Hibbert is still active and full of energy at the age of seventy. But in fact, this is a novel (or rather, an interlinking collection of stories) about misery. All the female characters in this book are damaged or unhappy. Mrs Hibbert's super-capability and busy life keeps her from brooding on painful memories, from her marriage and from an earlier relationship; underneath her bustling, bossy exterior she is very lonely. Chrissie can't cope with the pressures of her work, and the emotional distress it causes her brings her close to breakdown. Dot is terrified by her bullying husband and by life; Sarah, her daughter, is terrified of getting cancer, in a difficult relationship with a married man, and beset by fears which go back to her childhood. Rachel feels that she cannot connect with her family or make close friends, and is still suffering from the end of an intense relationship. And Edwina and Ida are damaged by their experiences of cancer - Edwina, who 'hates to be noticed', is obsessed that her cancer may come back, and seeks relief in reading and daydreaming, failing to notice that her younger daughter is in serious relationship trouble, while Ida, who doesn't even have the intellectual consolation of books, drifts into a haze of misery and obsessive dread that her cancer will return, and refuses to confide in or show warmth to her kindly husband Martin.

Forster's observations of life in a small Northern town, and her ability to capture different viewpoints (from the nervous and bookish Edwina to the gentle and bewildered Martin to the stoical Rachel and Mrs Hibbert, who turns out to be quite different to what we think of her at the start) are impressive. There are some exquisite passages, such as when Martin takes an impulsive bike ride into the country, or Rachel has a gliding lesson. But this is also a deeply depressing book, and a frustrating one. With a short length, and a huge cast of characters, we never get to know anyone very well. People just disappear from the story suddenly after being key players - Chrissie, for example, who vanishes about halfway through the book and is only mentioned once afterwards, or Edwina and her daughter, who also virtually vanish from the narrative after a bit. We never learn quite enough about any of the characters to truly sympathize with them, and Forster confuses the issue by keeping adding extra characters, such as the tormented vicar of the local church. In addition the constant angst can get quite wearying. I agree with the reader who notes that, though cancer is one of the most terrible things that can happen to a human being, it needn't destroy your life for good, and there is still a good life to lead after recovering from it. Rachel is the only one of the women in the book (apart from perhaps Mrs Hibbert with her good works) who appears to make positive steps to change her life for the better; the others just sink into a morass of misery - and even in the case of Rachel, there's little sense her gliding is really helping her to recover. The book's final message seemed to be that we are all alone, and can only expect the minimum of help from others, whatever our situation. This is extremely bleak, and, in a novel dealing with a variety of women, quite one sided. Read this book if you're a Forster fan for the quality of the writing, but ultimately I didn't think it was one of her strongest. A shame; if the tone hadn't been so relentlessly bleak and there'd been more of a sense of the characters communicating with each other it could have been a fine novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Forster is family !, 8 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
Loved this book. I agree with some other reviews that not much happens in it but nonetheless each night as I tottered up the stairs to bed I glanced at the book and knew that within a couple of minutes I would be surrounded by Margaret Forster's very real characters. The subject matter 'cancer' which initially held me back from starting this book, figured very little in the story I thought, simply lurked in the background. This is very true of real life and every family has a cancer story somewhere within it. What I do find in her books is always, somewhere in the story, I find myself, my mother, my sisters and friends - I think this is why I love her so much X
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i loved this book, 13 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
I personally couldn't put this book down. It's true that nothing much really happens in it, and it is quite bleak in its portrayal of cancer. But to me it is a fascinating book. The characters within it are compelling, and it made me think twice about how I perceive people, because it reveals the passions and fears beneath the surface, driving the characters actions. I agree I didn't much care for the vicar and felt he added little to the book.
Overall, this was my first Margaret Forster, and on the strength of it, I have spent a fortune buying lots of her other works. I think this says alot.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful novel, 1 Mar. 2009
I was not looking forward to reading this book after reading the two quite bad Amazon reviews for it (at time of writing), also the subject matter seemed a bit depressing, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it, I even wished it were a little longer. The reviews here clearly do not give Margaret Forster justice for this book, she is a fantastically brilliant writer, and this novel clearly exemplifies her talent for creative writing and extreme realism.

I felt as though I were looking through a peephole into the lives of the characters in the book, and felt that this idea was only more emphasized by the way in which we are only allowed a mere glimpse into some of the character's lives, which some readers might wrongly point out to be a criticism.

The subject matter was handled with extreme sensitivity, real insight, and emotion, I can't imagine it being done in a better way. The messages in this book are powerful, and while it may not be the kind of book I would read again (although I rarely read anything twice) and there is little "story" or plot to it, I would still highly recommend this book to anyone prepared to read it (without sounding sexist I feel it is more for female readers). On the cover it says: "brilliant, exquisitely sensitive", and I think that sums this book up perfectly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read, 14 Nov. 2012
By 
C. Kirby "Catherine Kirby" (England) - See all my reviews
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I loved this book. It concerns what most would term dark subject matter - dealing with women's reaction to their cancer. However, it revealed a lot about these women's emotional reactions to their illness, the hospital treatment and care consideration and/or lack thereof. It also showed their personal lives and how these were changed for the better or worse by all this.

The inclusion of the vicar I thought was a good idea because these women were at a crisis in their lives, where people often turn to religion for support. Suddenly, they may expect the church to make it all better or to provide whatever is that is missing from their lives. This, of course, would be admirable. However, vicars, priest etc like doctors are human. They don't get it right sometimes, sometimes they don't know what to do or how to handle a delicate situation, despite their efforts. It's not necessarily through a lack of caring just plain human frailty. I thought this came across very well and it is so true of people in general. We do our best but sometimes we are blind to what is really needed and sometimes we are amazing at getting it right too! Well done Margaret Forster. A great insight!
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4.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly gentle read, 20 April 2015
By 
Frances Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
I love Margaret Forster's novels, and have read most of them. This one (an early one, I assume, altough I couldn't find the original publication date) isn't up to her best, but I still enjoyed it.

The blurb on the Amazon page is, I think, rather over-written. In fact, I found this to be a gentle, almsot leisurely novel, although its subject (women affected by cancer) certainly isn't. The women in question are all connected with the breast cancer deparment of hte local hospital, either as patients or staff (there is the hospital volunteer, the austere Mrs.Hibbert, and the bewildered Chrissie, a young doctor). Although cancer is a dramatic subject, nothing dramatic really happens; it is a tale of small lives affected by illness, and is rather reminiscent of the novels of Barbar Pym (especially the new vicar, who is both misunderstanding and misunderstood).

LIke all Forster's novels, this one is beautifully written, and if you are a fan, I'm sure you will enjoy it. But if you are new to this author, I would start with something more substantial, such as Lady's Maid or Have the Men Had Enough. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lives in a small Northern town, 17 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
A novel of great subtlety, with many ordinary, yet interesting, characters. Mrs Hibbert is a fascinating busy-body, do-gooder, whose past holds surprising secrets. Particularly memorable is the description of her weekly visit to the out-of-town supermarket with Dot, a timid wife completely under the thumb of her bullying husband. Many readers will empathise with familiar elements in the characters' lives. And many lives are marred here, despite the support offered by spouses, friends, or relatives, by the presence of cancer .... as they surely are (whatever the wishes of NHS workers that they weren't). One thing shines through and that is the sheer creativity and craftmanship of the author. Note to self: read more Margaret Forster.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great expectations disappointed, 27 Aug. 2007
By 
Paula Hill "minkusmum" (Fontanivent, CH) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
I was looking forward to reading this book after reading an online extract. Margaret Forster is one of my favourite authors, although I am still recovering from the discovery that "Diary of an Ordinary Woman" is in fact totally fictional. I am therefore sorry to say that this book was a real disappointment. There are too many characters who remain shadowy because they are only described in terms of their reaction to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and the introduction of an emotionally insecure vicar halfway through is just a distraction. By the end there is a tangle of loose ends, and while that may reflect most people's lives it does not make for a satisfying read. The book didn't even give any real insight into living in the shadow of breast cancer.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Is there anything you want, 3 May 2012
This review is from: Is There Anything You Want? (Paperback)
I've like some of Margaret Forster's books. But I have tried this one twice now. And each time I find it drones on and on. And there seems to be a lack of paragraphs.

I haven't been able to finish it.
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Is There Anything You Want?
Is There Anything You Want? by Margaret Forster (Paperback - 2 Feb. 2006)
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