I felt slightly tricked when I read the Author’s Note at the end of Diary of an Ordinary Woman, but then turning back to the quotes on the front it does say it’s a novel. For all that, from the Introduction on it reads as what that Introduction says it is, Margaret Forster’s edited version of the diaries Millicent King kept from 26 November 1914 to 16 June 1995.
That said, the sense of betrayal reflects just how absorbing I found it to read (what I’d thought was) the life of Millicent King in her own words, written not with hindsight or as autobiography, but on an almost daily between the ages of 13 and 94. Instead, it’s Margaret Forster’s imagined version, but based on research and with roots in reality.
As a window into the 20th century and the transformations that events throughout that century brought for women in England, it’s a fantastic read. It made me wish I could talk to my grandmothers, to hear their versions. I’d recommend it as a must-read for anyone studying that period, particularly the impact of the two world wars on the home front.
Publisher page: Diary of an Ordinary Woman – Margaret Forster
Guardian review: A life less ordinary – Helen Falconer