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4 August 1988
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... was also, in a sense, a conscious and loving masochist in relation to her father and family, and Margaret Forster has done an admirable job in investigating what really went on among them. It takes two – or rather three – to make an Andromeda, and Elizabeth herself was a powerful unit in a close-knit Compton-Burnett family, who all recognised in ...
24 June 1993
Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... any meritocracy would themselves have sunk without trace. Interestingly, the opening paragraph of Margaret Forster’s Daphne du Maurier makes good use of this particular technique: ‘Sheet-lightning split the sky over London on the evening of 12 May 1907 and thunder rumbled long into the night. All day it had been sultry, the trees in Regent’s Park ...

Death for Elsie

Christopher Ricks

7 August 1986
Found in the Street 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 277 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 9780434335244
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Private Papers 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 214 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 7011 2987 5
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... family incrimination and recrimination and of likeness disliked by both parties, mother and child. Margaret Forster has a good ear for paranoia, as well as for the paranoia of that accusation itself. ‘All that is absolute rubbish, a clear case of paranoia’ – as if paranoia weren’t always desperately cunning at not permitting of a clear ...
27 September 1990
Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... the boot might conceivably be on the other foot’) is fatally at odds with its modern interior. Margaret Forster seems on altogether surer ground in Lady’s Maid, which also takes up the case of a marginal figure in a larger narrative, though here the narrative is history, not fiction. The ground is that of her own recent biography of Elizabeth ...

Binarisms

John Sutherland

18 November 1993
Complicity 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 313 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 316 90688 3
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Against a Dark Background 
by Iain M. Banks.
Orbit, 496 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 1 85723 185 6
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... TLS critic called it the ‘literary equivalent of the nastiest kind of juvenile delinquency’; Margaret Forster thought it less a novel than the script for a video nasty. Young male novelists routinely seek to give maximum offence. Martin Amis did so in 1975 by calling a novel Dead Babies. In The Wasp Factory Banks recounted acts of child-on-child ...

Make-Believe

Patricia Beer

8 November 1979
The Intruder 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hodder, 286 pp., £5.95
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Mother Can You Hear Me? 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 269 pp., £5.90
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Treasures of Time 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 199 pp., £4.95
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Wild Nights 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 134 pp., £4.50
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... and afterwards mayor of St Laurent-le-Nouveau: not exactly a trimmer, not exactly a coward. Margaret Forster’s Mother Can You Hear Me? is well-titled and the answer is no. To my knowledge, there is no official Daughter’s Day yet, but this book is one long high-pitched celebration of the situation of daughter misunderstood by mother. There are ...

Sisterhoods

Brian Harrison

6 December 1984
Significant Sisters: The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839-1939 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 353 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 436 16113 3
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Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Movement 1900-1918 
by Les Garner.
Gower, 142 pp., £15, July 1984, 0 435 32357 1
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Women First: The Female Tradition in English Physical Education 1880-1980 
by Sheila Fletcher.
Athlone, 194 pp., £18, July 1984, 0 485 11248 5
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A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890-1940 
by Elizabeth Roberts.
Blackwell, 246 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 631 13572 3
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... suggest the many approaches historians of women can appropriate from other areas of history. Margaret Forster’s is the most conventional of the four. Her subtitle is misleading: her thoughtful and interesting book is not a sociological analysis of rank-and-file provincial feminists, but collects together short biographies of eight well-known women ...

True Stories

Michael Irwin

30 March 1989
Have the men had enough? 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 251 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 7011 3400 3
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Aurora’s Motive 
by Erich Hackl, translated by Edna McCown.
Cape, 117 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 224 02584 8
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The Open Door 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 358 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 246 13422 4
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... can affirm that she will lose all these capacities. As his prognostications are proved correct, Margaret Forster charts the efforts of Grandma’s family to cope with their growing problem. Most of the practical responsibility falls to three female members of that family. Of her two sons, Stuart, a policeman, thinks she should be in a council ...

Large and Rolling

Penelope Fitzgerald

31 July 1997
The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest for a Family Secret 
by Anthony Sampson.
Murray, 229 pp., £16, May 1997, 0 7195 5708 9
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... and housed in an old lunatic asylum. Having fallen extravagantly in love with a young woman, Margaret Sprunt, the new librarian married on his tiny salary, but soon began to spend his vacations away from his wife, in North Wales, ‘whose wild splendours’, Sampson points out, ‘the railway had brought much closer to Liverpool’. In the spring of 1901 ...
30 March 1989
Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett: The Courtship Correspondence 1845-1846 
edited by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 363 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 19 818547 2
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... calls it ‘excruciating’); no, it was an ‘admirably strong open letter’ (according to Margaret Forster’s recent biography of Mrs Browning). Mr Barrett was a cruel tyrant; not at all, he was a loving father about whom his daughter lied and exaggerated. Mr Barrett, regarded for a century or more as an archetypal ogre, has indeed found some ...

Only the Drop

Gabriele Annan

17 October 1996
Every Man for Himself 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 224 pp., £14.99, September 1996, 0 7156 2733 3
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... of England, Camden Town, Kilburn. These places are frequented by other contemporary novelists like Margaret Forster, Hilary Mantel and Jeanette Winterson; two of them black humorists like Bainbridge, but none quite as funny, and certainly not as unexpected and disturbing. She is a cross between a witch and a clown. Clowns unleash chaos, and that is what ...

Here she is

Frank Kermode: Zadie Smith

6 October 2005
On Beauty 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 446 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 241 14293 8
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... What makes this novel a bit unusual is that it is conceived as an act of homage to E.M. Forster, ‘to whom’, the author writes, ‘all my fiction is indebted, one way or the other’. The acknowledgment is obscure and ‘one way or the other’ could, but probably doesn’t, mean ‘both by attraction and repulsion ...

Wife Overboard

John Sutherland: Thackeray

20 January 2000
Thackeray 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... amplify or judiciously correct Ray’s version. No one has, or ever will, supersede him. Margaret Forster in 1978 attempted an imaginary autobiography. Ann Monsarrat’s brisk Thackeray: An Uneasy Victorian is strong on the Mrs Brookfield imbroglio. The best of the post-Ray efforts is Catherine Peters’s psycho-biographical Thackeray’s ...

Yes and No

John Bayley

24 July 1986
Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism 
by Mark Krupnick.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $25.95, April 1986, 0 8101 0712 0
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... rest than in the company of cool, humouring, compassionate observers like Matthew Arnold and E.M. Forster, or of Lionel Trilling himself? Naturally if you write as if present and past were one, you tend to write about purely notional things and people; like Matthew Arnold, you attach your imagination to the idea. And since ideas are bloodless you run the risk ...

Gaiety

Frank Kermode

8 June 1995
Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... story, but it is also the sort of thing that he himself would in principle have deplored. As Margaret Drabble emphasises, he disliked that anti-American reflex, attributing it (perhaps too simply) to simple envy. He loved the USA, where he had dozens of friends, whom he treated, so far as one can tell, with his usual amiability and generosity. Yet the ...

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