Monday 16 August 2010

Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster

This morning I finished this book. I have been absorbed in it completely, discussing different parts with Him Outdoors and finding it fascinating.

Margaret Forster has written about her mother and grandmother which I had read and on the basis of this had been contacted by the niece of a 98 year old woman born in 1901 who had written a diary throughout her life. The diarist wanted someone to read/edit/publish these diaries and this book is the story of the contact, the chosen diary entries and some italicised joining up bits.

The diarist lives mostly in London, goes through WW1, college training, teaching, social work, WW2 WVS, driving an ambulance, becoming a WAAF, dropping it all to bring up her sister's children, lovers in the 1930s, living with a married man. Ending up with Greenham Common. A fascinating life in which I have been engrossed.

At the end of the book is this paragraph:

This book began as described in the first two pages of the introduction, but I never did meet the woman in question. She cancelled our meeting at the last minute because of some family objections. I was already so looking forward to her diaries that I decided to overcome my disappointment by pretending I had indeed obtained and read them. The result is fiction. The real 'Millicent' has since died, and though her diaries exist, I have never read them.

I feel ridiculously cheated.


  1. Oh yes, and so would I have felt.
    Had she said this in the introduction you would have known where you were and decided how you would regard what you were about to read.
    I feel I have a relation with a book...and I like to know where it is coming from.

  2. Oh I agree with Fly, and yes I would certainly have felt cheated too. It's almost like getting someone to buy and read your book under false pretences.

  3. It does say once (when I studied them closely) in the reviews of the book on the cover that it is a novel but I just assumed that it was the italicised bits that made it a novel.
    I guess I got the lovely read out of it before I discovered it wasn't true so all is not lost.

  4. I would have felt the same, what a shame; but as you say at least you got a good read out of it!

  5. Someone recommended this for my book club but I didn't get a chance to read it. I went along to the meeting about it because I thought it had sounded interesting and most of the group were absolutely furious about it! Said exactly the same as you, that they felt cheated!

    I felt the same way about Atonement by Ian McEwan and as a consequence can't bring myself to read any of his other work!

    C x

  6. Carol, I have Atonement but haven't read it yet (or seen the film) - what was it about the book that was annoying?


  7. I'd save that book.. just in case it ever came around where I could smack the author up side the head with it.

    How come I'm just now findind your blog? I don't drink... really I don't.

  8. Looks like I have trouble finding the "g" also.

  9. @eloh I don't know why you haven't staggered over this way before. Bring a bottle over.

  10. I will have to look up that book. I love even fake diaries. You have to admit that it took a lot of creativity to pull an entire book out of imaginary diary entries. Especially a book engaging enough to hold you in thrall until the end when you got pissed off! What's up next on your reading list?

  11. I have just finished We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It's an 'elegant psycholigica and philosophical investigation of culpability with a brilliant denouement'. A novel written from the mother's view of her teenage son's killing of 7 of his fellow students. Not a cheerful read and not sure the 'brilliant denouement' was worth waiting for.But interest in mother's attitude overcame subject matter. Surprisingly for me - but maybe not for an American more used to weird names - Lionel is a woman. I can be almost certain that there are no women Lionel's in the UK!