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The Unknown Bridesmaid
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on 31 December 2014
The second book I have read by the brilliant Margaret Forster, and I read it in a day! My sympathies swung from the main character Julia so many times, and I'm still not sure if I like her very much at all! Beautifully drawn characters, all of them, and I am sorry to leave them behind. The ending was something of anti climax, but perhaps the most realistic ending rather than one contrived for dramatic effect. A story of families, how the minds of children can work, and how secrets and guilt can damage us. Personally I think Julia is a psychopath, albeit one who managed to function in society. Downloading more books by this author. I love the way she writes, no excess words, just beautifully phrased writing that pulls you into the story. Highly recommend.
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on 11 April 2014
Margaret Forster's novels are always worth reading, not least because each one is different -- she doesn't follow any kind of format. This book travels back and forth between the present, when the main character is a psychiatric social worker dealing with young girls judged to have social or behavioural problems, and a decade or two earlier, when she herself was growing up. Her relationship with her only cousin, a pretty, kind girl 8-10 years older, and her family are tainted by her reaction to their gestures of friendship. A thought-provoking and intriguing study of family relationships.
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on 26 March 2014
Adult Julia is a child pyschologist, The young Julia is a troubled only child. The teenage Julia is perverse and vindictive without being conscious of why she is being driven to be so. Her family are being kind and generous towards her and this seems to be making matters worse. Gratitude Julia WILL NOT feel. She also harbours worryng secrets from childhood. Margaret Forster in my opinion is one of Britains best. Have read just about everything that she has written over the years and have never been disappointed. Thank you Maragaret Forster. I would recommend any of your books.
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on 5 June 2013
I chose this rating because although I enjoyed the narrative I found the main character quite repellant at times. It seemed that the writer excused her unkind behaviour because she did not have a sympathetic adult with whom she could share her innermost thoughts and trust. However, I believe that human beings do really know the difference between right & wrong fom a very young age. Ultimately, as Woolfe says in 'To The Lighthouse' we travel each alone, we are responsible for our actions and the narrator's conscience told her this.
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on 16 October 2013
Who is the unknown bridesmaid? Julie was a bridesmaid to her cousin Ivy when she was 7yrs. old.Through a series of flashbacks we learn the story of Julie's life and the wrong paths she could have taken. I always enjoy Margaret Forster's writing and this does not disappoint.The idea of Julia being a child psychologist neatly tied in with Julia herself being a troubled child. Forster always writes well of an ordinary woman's life, but always with a twist. I'm not sure what the ending of the book was about, any ideas?
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2013
I managed to devour all 234 pages of Margaret Forster's The Unknown Bridesmaid at one go...so riveting was her story and told as always in a crisp, straightforward style, that stays refreshing, precious and memorable to the senses.

Also, the beautiful part to a classic Forster novel is in taking comfort that not all family relationships are perfect, that they are more likely to be sadly mutilated, damaged and definitely frayed at some point, at the edges. The solution would lie in survival; the art of plodding through everyday motions with cautious ferocity and grim fortitude. In fact, the novelist goes to great pains to exhibit that noisy or colourful clamour in a home may be regarded as anything but cosy. There may just be one skeleton too many locked in a closet, to be revealed a little at a time and that superficial pretensions to social relationships and the fragile threads that hold unlikely people together - whether they be tiresome family aunts or misunderstood friends - may actually prove to be more of a necessary evil, when measured in the bigger scheme of things.

In The Unknown Bridesmaid, Forster sketches a profound childhood story of a successful 48-year old child psychologist, Julia whose job it is to counsel troubled children with expert ease. The children that are summoned at different times to Julia's side all open painful, little windows that gently reveal the lack of real understanding that adults - especially those caught in difficult aspects of a crisis - often appear to have over their own children, already laden with complicated temperaments. Mothers often appear to be brittle in tone, are easily reproachful and many a-time, a confused lot.

But Julia's story is itself not perfect. Without giving anything away and through various episodes, Julia harbours a strange guilt and fear that may be held similar to those of the children she so kindly talks to. As a reader, I found Julia's childhood character hardly endearing. This, deliberately made so by Forster. But Julia wrestles well with her demons and becomes extremely likeable in adulthood as Forster takes us on Julia's clandestine journey of loneliness and detachment. As the story progresses, there is a clear touch of inspiration. Like building blocks, the exposition scenes where the past interjects with the present, all fit neatly into the other.

I particularly liked the major scenes that depicted the volatile relationship between Julia's middle-aged mother and her aunt. The earlier hostility and grumblings that are tossed back and forth between the two grudging sisters, would later translate through unexpected family troubles, into a rough kindness, a series of comforting dialogues and the confirmation of a faithful kinship. The Unknown Bridesmaid is a perfect novel for any reader who appreciates complete honesty in family relationships.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2013
I have given it 3 stars, not because as usual it's a very well written book and the characters are well defined and believable, but because I don't like gratuitous emotional or physical abuse, and this was emotional abuse by Julia, the main character, which I found disturbing. I couldn't understand why she behaved so badly, both as a child or as an adult, as nothing in her childhood seemed to merit such behaviour. I found myself disliking her intensely and almost didn't finish the book, although I did skip one or two sections. Apart from this negative review, it is a very good book and up to Margaret Forster's usual standard. It just was not for me and is the only one of her books that I won't be keeping.
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on 22 October 2014
I was disappointed in this novel and found the main character unbelievable, I could not build a relationship with her or any of the other characters. It wasn't a difficult read and I read it in two sessions, simply because I hate to give up on a book, but felt as though I was wasting my time. I have not read any other books by Margaret Forester and this one has not inspired me to look further.
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on 26 July 2013
Another excellent book by one of my favourite authors -Margaret Forster at her best, observing and describing human relationships shrewdly and very cleverly. While Julia was not a very likeable character (felt quite sorry for poor Iris and Carlo who obviously did their best for her), the writing is gripping -have already read the book twice and only bought it earlier this year!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2015
I did not like the way it jumped in time. It took me some time to work out what was happening
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