Sarah Scott sets about making a new life in Workington, Cumbria. But from the start the involvement of The Man and then his colleague, The Woman, in this process make it clear that major events in Sarah’s history are being hidden.
As the story slowly reveals the reasons behind this secrecy and subterfuge, I realised nothing about either Sarah Scott or Tara Fraser is as it first appears.
And at the end, the person I felt most sympathy for was Mrs Armstrong; the only character who was honest about her own emotions and motivations, and the nature of friendship.
“It tells the story of Julia, a child psychologist. Scenes from Julia’s daily routine dealing with misbehaving or distressed children are interspersed with flashbacks to her own childhood, living with an overbearing single mother in the north of England and never entirely fitting in either at school or within her own extended family. […] As an adult, Julia possesses great insight into their behaviour and yet seems to have cultivated a wilful blindness to her own past transgressions.”
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.
The twin, time separated tales of Evie and Shona, Leah and Hazel – the former girls who learn that they had been abandoned as babies by the latter, unmarried mothers in times when such things were social suicide. Shadow Baby deals with human emotion, class, social history and shifts in expectations, of society, family and individuals, and underlines that motherly love does not come automatically with giving birth. A really absorbing read.
Catherine Musgrave’s mother died when she was 6 months old, leaving her daughter a Memory Box. Thirty years later, as she at last tries to understand the significance of each item her mother put into the box, Catherine discovers that there is more about herself and her family’s relationships than she’d previously allowed herself to appreciate.