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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 9 February 2001
An insight into the life of the insular Rose Pendlebury - who exists, trapped in the past by her insecurities, with her retired husband Stanley. She is a curtain twitcher and reluctantly becomes involved with her new next door neighbours. Mrs Pen is a fabulous character, almost a caricature, but then you pinch yourself and empathise that there probably are elderly folk just like her in every respect. Stanley provides the foil to Mrs Pens ups and downs. The novel deals with the changing relationship between Mrs Pen and her neighbours, Alice & Tony, the barriers that are broken, then re-erected between the families.
Does this sound like an interesting book? No, I didn't think so either but I was very pleasantly surprised and would recommend it highly.
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2008
Rose Pendlebury, a hypersensitive seventy year old woman, who makes snap judgments about people. Usually not favourable ones. She's very critical of all her newer younger neighbours in Rawlinson Road. Rose is tied to a code of ultra-polite behaviour, which ensures she has no friends. Her husband Stanley, is always going to do things tomorrow, consequently nothing ever gets done. Stanley is gregarious, lazy in the home and health obsessed, (mostly by piles and bowels). Alice Oram moves into the house next to the Pendlebury's. She has a child Amy, who takes to Rose, who gradually through her contact with Amy and Alice, becomes more outgoing. Alice thinks she understands Rose. However, Rose is a deeply insecure woman, with occasional violent mood swings.

Although Rose can be irascible and difficult, her problem lies in her past. Stanley for all he is dilatory, mostly knows how to pacify Rose. Over time her friendship with Alice is tested. Alice begins to weary of Rose and her complexities. There is humour in this story, Rose and Stanley's relationship is one of many compromises. It's the extent of their more ridiculous compromises, which bring hilarity. Is Rose a character one could feel sympathy for? Indeed, she is. If I tell you why, I would be giving away the core plot. When Rose and Alice are both disillusioned, ultimately it's Stanley who comes up trumps. For relationship novels with depth, Margaret Forster is one who reigns supreme.
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on 15 September 2005
I adore this book. It is one of very few books I have bothered to read twice. It is funny, sweet, adorable and poignant.

Rose's phobias shape the lives of herself and her endlessly patient husband, Stanley. But they both have their own ways of dealing with them...

This may sound dull, but Ms Forster has a wonderfully dry and wry wit which makes made this book a total joy and surprise.
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on 30 July 2016
Although a Riveting read it was extremely ordinary in a way that i cannot put my finger on... I was bored by the characters yet needed to know what happenned next ! AND it so reminded me of a sad version of Hyacinth Bouquet on TV that i wondered if in fact it was her !
Sorry Ms Forster i usually love your stories and have read some much better ones this year alone...
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on 21 October 2015
Margaret Forster's books have never let me down. She's one of my favourite authors and has a wonderful ability to observe and relate human behaviour and interaction in all kinds of relationships and her chacterisation is excellent. I'm always pleased when I find a book of hers that I haven't yet read.

This is a gentle book about an elderly couple (the Pendleburys) and what happens when new neighbours move in next door. I should perhaps warn you that the seduction isn't of a sexual nature but none the worse for that. Better in fact.
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on 2 April 2011
I love Margaret Forster's compelling style of writing, her wit and cleverness, and nothing she writes could be less than 3 stars but I finished this one with gritted teeth.
Rose was only too alive as a character, and a meaner spirited harridan I have rarely come across in fiction or elsewhere. Certainly excuses can be made for her but I know I would not last five minutes in her company.
What's the good of feeling sorry for her? She exists in her own little persecuted world and sympathy would not help her. I did feel sorry for her husband and her neighbours, but nobody seemed prepared to get her the attention which might have helped her.
Definitely not a feel good book, but wonderful writing.
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on 9 September 2014
This wasn't what I expected from Margaret Forster I never really understood the characters - just when I thought I understood what it was about, it all changed. I think the description of the problems of mental illness were quite good but then I couldn't decide which of the two main women characters was ill - or possibly both.
The ending was, I thought, contrived.
But after all that, I found it difficult to stop reading it , it kept my interest and it was an easy holiday read
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on 17 May 2013
The book has remained in my mind days after I finished it, I suppose because of the skill of the author.

It is the story of an old woman who is sometimes nasty and sometimes sweet, sometimes understanding and sometimes stupid. Very realistic and very human, but not interesting, not really. It is so true to mediocre life why read a novel about it?
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on 3 February 2015
This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read, and try as I might I wasn't, at the end, able to see the point of it. I have read many of Margaret Forsters' books and have enjoyed them all - but not this one! I didn't find the characters believable or even coherent. Would really like other readers who enjoyed it to tell me why!
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on 16 September 2010
Mrs Pendlebury (Rose) is almost 70 years old. She has been married to Stanley for 50 years and has had two children: Frank ,whom she has not seen for 24 years, and Ellen, who died when she was 18 months old.

The Pendleburys have lived in newly fashionable Islington for around 25 years, but have had nothing to do with their neighbours until the arrival of the Orams next door. It is 18 month old Amy Oram who seduces Mrs Pendlebury away from her reclusive existence. Over a period of 2 years the Pendleburys become popular in their neighbourhood and this is all due to Mrs P being enticed first by Amy and then Amy's mother, Alice. But things are not quite right in the Pendlebury household and probably never have been. There are hints that Stanley knew there was something unusual about Rose when he first introduced her to his family; and her odd behaviour is most likely the reason why Frank emigrated to Australia.

Mrs P nags her husband incessantly but there appears to be no malice involved. She clearly suffers from delusions and these escalate until she has a complete mental breakdown. This is precipitated by her son cancelling a trip to see him in Australia owing ( purportedly) to an accident his wife, Veronica, has had.

Stanley has put up with his wife and life clearly because he wants to. Mrs P sees it as her duty to organise the household, and Stanley has been happy not to have to do any chores as long as he can go weekly to his club and have a flutter on the pools.

This book was first published in 1974 and it brings life in the mid-1970s alive by reference to such things as :The Power Strikes, the clothes, class tensions and babysitting at 20p an hour! There is a lot of hilarity, especially in the exchanges between Rose and Stanley. There are also a number of poignant moments such as Rose suddenly wanting to know, from Stanley, what had happened to the Silver Cross pram after Ellen died.

You are always hoping that Mrs P will see the error of her ways and literally take of the hat which she feels she must wear at all times . And always at the back of your mind is the question: What effect does her friendship with Mrs P have on Alice? Half way through the book, Alice realises that her happiness relies on Mrs P's approval. But soon everything goes terribly wrong and this makes compelling and disturbing reading. Maybe the moral is: Don't get too close to your neighbours!
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