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Margaret Forster Biography

(1938– ), Dame's Delight, Georgy Girl, The Seduction of Mrs Pendlebury

British novelist and biographer, born in Carlisle, educated at Somerville College, Oxford. Ever since her early novels, Dame's Delight (1964), the story of a Northern scholarship girl's rebellion against male authority at Oxford, and Georgy Girl (1965), which examined seduction traps and sexual liberation, Forster has tended to use her own circumstances as a starting-point for her fiction, which explores local, domestic, and family conflicts, often using overlapping narratives and different points of view. Books such as The Seduction of Mrs Pendlebury (1974), which brings together the insecurities of the mother of a young child and the emotional isolation of an elderly widow in the neighbouring house, as well as Mother Can You Hear Me? (1979) and Private Papers (1986), both of which expose the hypocrisies which can be used to bolster family life, are characteristic of her work. Her examination of old age, Have the Men Had Enough? (1989), offers an unflinching account of how a family fails to cope with an ‘elderly’ woman, while a quest for custody raises further issues about the nature of the family in The Battle for Christabel (1991), and a violent assault provokes questions about the conflicting demands of mother-love in Mother's Boys (1994). Her interest in the domestic theatre and mother—daughter relationships lies behind Significant Sisters: The Grass Roots of Active Feminism, 1839–1939 (1984), a collection of short biographies of eight feminist ‘heroines’. It may also have started her interest in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose biography she wrote and whose poems she edited in 1988, and whose faithful but exploited maid Elizabeth Wilson is the subject of her novel Lady's Maid (1990). Her interest in nineteenth-century literature can be seen in her ‘gothic’ novel The Bride of Lowther Fell (1980) and also in her tour de force ‘autobiography’ of William Makepeace Thackeray (1978). She has also published an acclaimed biography, Daphne du Maurier (1993), which draws attention to du Maurier's bisexuality, and Hidden Lives: A Memoir (1995), a portrait of her own, her mother's, and her grandmother's past. Forster's feel for day-to-day existence and her perception for the way in which legend misrepresents reality informs all her writing.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso