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My Life in Houses Hardcover – 6 Nov 2014
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"I was truly moved by Margaret Forster's ingeniously structured and beautifully written memoir... A really wonderful book" (Juliet Nicolson Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
"A beautiful exploration of her life in relation to the homes she has made'" (Rachel Joyce Observer BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
"Such a clever idea. It's a memoir sited in bricks and mortar... social and personal history spliced together" (Penelope Lively Guardian BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
"Until its shocking, throat-catching end, this latest book is a deceptively simple trek evoking everywhere [Margaret Forster] has lived" (Melanie Reid The Times)
"Reads like one of Forster's well-loved novels: full of sharp observation and gentle wit" (Bel Mooney Daily Mail)
"In both books and homes, we find wry humour and a great deal of poignancy" (Sarah Franklin Sunday Express)
"Like sitting down for tea with a highly intelligent woman and chatting, not so much about "a room of one's own" as "a home of one's own"... fascinating and touching" (Spectator)
"This is a lovely and touching evocation of what home means to one woman, and within this is a universality that many will connect with" (Shirley Whiteside Herald)
"A meditation on our emotional connection with houses, it is also a perceptive portrayal of changing domestic life in 20th and 21st-century Britain" (Juanita Coulson Lady)
"Lovely, insightful memoir" (Simple Things)
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The author tells her life story around the basis of the houses in which she has lived. The houses don't just provide a background for her life but also each reflect something that the author wishes to say about class and social aspiration. We see her first house and then share with her in the huge change as they moved into an up to date council house. We then share in her experiences of renting in London and her tales of fellow lodgers together with an interlude in a Malta and a holiday home in Britain. The author feels that houses are important to people and reflect more than just their disposable income so she shares how these houses became home and what made them important to her.
This book is written in a light-hearted and anecdotal way but it is the story of the life of a working class girl made good and how that is reflected in where she lives. I thought that the anecdotes of her life were enlightening (especially that of the Beatles who visited her home after her husband had written a biography of them). There are lots of fascinating details about life in Carlisle and London since the war mixed in with the personal stories.
Having read this novel I am now reviewing my own life in the same way - it's an interesting and revealing way of looking at things.
The book is really an autobiography, as much concerned with people as with the houses she has lived in. Did she intend it as such, or may we expect a more expansive account? I suspect not. There are two important elephants in her many rooms. One is Hunter Davies, her husband (who amongst his acolytes includes me), and we await impatiently his introduction into her life. We are disappointed: there are very few references to a profoundly deep relationship. Her description of the many houses she had lived in are usually in the first person and apart from the need for each house to have separate writing spaces for both authors, there is very little to inform the reader of his part in her life. Hence my question above on the autobiographical detail. May we hope for a further auto/biography, in which Hunter adds his perspective?
The other elephant? I leave this for the reader to discover. The most precious and revealing reading in the whole book and which needs to wait to be discovered.
The other elephant? I leave this to the reader to find
Utterly devastated to hear of her terminal illness and death and in ordering her last 2 books, sadness was mixed with anticipation.
Read the review of this and wondered if I would like it as much as the others as it was autobiographical rather than a novel. How wrong I was. This was a fitting end to her life as a writer. A very modest lady who underrated her own talent, this was indirectly an autobiography that by its format reflected that modesty. I ended up loving this book as I followed her life through the houses. Yet again it uncannily reflected my life and without a doubt that of other readers, Starting with childhood homes, progressing through student days, marrying, rented homes to the excitement of one's very first home and then the upsizing and downsizing and ultimately,as recently in my case leaving the beloved family home knowing it to be the last, or penultimate home.
So sad to read this wonderful book knowing that after a brutal illness born with such bravery and quiet fortitude Margaret died. Although such a sad read, knowing she had died, I loved reading it and sharing her life.
Reading it , I happily mentally revisited all my houses and, as I love to write, intend to write "my life in houses" too.
Please do be tempted to read this and all her other books.
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