One of my favorite authors died this week. Margaret Forster. She had such a wonderful way with words, letting the reader right into the rooms her characters inhabited. I wasn't a fly on the wall but instead a guest in the corner of the room, on a beautiful chintzy upholstered chair, watching as her 'people' lived full and interesting lives. She had this wonderfully clear view of the world and a capacity to elaborate the story on behalf of the many.
I first discovered her writing in 2002, buying a book called 'The Memory Box' from a charity shop on Finchley Road in London. I remember only that it was a wet drizzly February day and that it was one of the days I had taken a random bus from the end of the road to the end of the line. I had wandered up and down Golders Green, eaten my sandwich on a bench and then walked all the way down to Finchley, peeking into shops as I went, ducking into others if the drizzle picked up pace. As the wife of a student, new to the city and with no job and limited resources the charity shop seemed like a welcome place while it rained. It was a treasure trove. I left with 4 books - one of them was Margaret Forster's 'The Memory Box'. I only recall many of these details as I pulled it out of my bookshelf this morning and find my name, the date and where I bought it all in my neatest handwriting inside the cover. It was a book that stayed with me, being read again and again over the years and the many moves. I bought a few more of her books from Amazon (notably 'Diary of an ordinary woman) and found others in other charity shops, each a gem.
Over the years I returned to that and the many many Charity shops around London, each time leaving with a little piles of books that cost £1 or £2 each. Inexpensive books donated to charity by generous readers was always one of the highlights of my time in London. When it was time to leave I sifted through my many books and gave 50 books each to my top 8 charity shops. My own goodbye to a city that kept me in inexpensive books for a decade. I gave away most of the Margaret Forster's - but I kept two: The Memory Box and The Battle for Christabel. And tonight I'm going to re-read one of these. Margaret Forster, RIP.