Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster - review by Elisa Segrave

Elisa Segrave

Dear Diary

Diary of an Ordinary Woman

By

Chatto & Windus 406pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

MARGARET FORSTER IS the author of this fictional diary, a revelation which disappointed this reader; a compulsive diarist myself, I had thought it was genuine. Forster's invented diarist is a Miss Millicent King, who begins writing her diary in November 1914 and continues into the 1990s. It therefore spans almost a century and encompasses two world wars. Forster's fictional introduction tells how in 1999 she was approached by Millicent's nephew's wife Joanna. Joanna had read Forster's memoir Hidden Lives about her mother and grandmother and hoped therefore that she might 'make something' of the journals of this other 'ordinary' woman. Forster describes meeting first Joanna, then Millicent herself, in Millicent's West Country cottage. She decides to edit all her diaries. As Millicent - ninety-eight and five foot tall - hands Forster her first twenty-five volumes, she states: 'I never lied to them . . . never once lied.' I must say that I believed all this.

The defiant first entry sets the tone. Even at thirteen, Millicent knows her own mind:

26 November 1914

Father says if I want to keep a diary I must begin it on New Year's Day. He said no one starts a diary in November. But New Year's Day is five weeks away

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter