My Brother sent me a parcel of books for my birthday, what nicer present is there? MY LIFE IN HOUSES was in the parcel. Margaret Forster has written a memoir based not on the big outward facing events of her life but her homes. Starting with a neat house on a large new council estate built to replace the overcrowded slums of Carlisle, we follow her as she grows up and moves away from the North.
She was a clever girl and got a scholarship to Oxford where she moved out of her rooms in College as soon as possible and into digs, complete with a resident landlady. Time and technology move on, out goes the grate that needs black leading and in come painted red wooden rocking chairs. The Beatles come to visit. A sitting tenant is persuaded to vacate the top floor by having a new flat purchased for her to rent. The house that she and her husband buy on the wrong side of Hampstead Heath is refurbished and slowly the area becomes desirable.
Looking back at your life through the houses that you have lived in is such clever idea for a memoir. Where you live says everything about what you can afford, what you like and what you want. A house is so much more than just bricks. Margaret Forster lived her life through a period of huge social and technological change, she herself moved far away from her working class, Carlisle roots whilst never denying or betraying them.
All in all, a beautiful, thought provoking book. Each house is so precisely described that you feel you are walking around the rooms with her. The process of choosing a new home, moving in and making it your own is captured perfectly. An excellent birthday present, thank you very much.
MY LIFE IN HOUSES by Margaret Forster
Published by Vintage
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £4.99