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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Review - Margaret Forster: Georgy Girl

Margaret Forster
Georgy Girl (3*)

Another nineteen-sixties novel I didn’t read when I should have done, supposedly set in ‘swinging’ London, although the sense of time and place arises mainly out of the social context rather than anything tangible. Such as there being nothing remarkable about cohabiting, the choices available to women and the reactionary views of Georgy’s parents. The story is also framed in sixties popular culture by the Seekers’ hit song (like it or loathe it) and the 1966 ‘X’ certificate film with Lynn Redgrave in the title roll. Other than that, the plot might be from almost any time or place.

Georgy is exuberant and outgoing but thinks of herself as ungainly and unattractive. She shares her London flat with the promiscuous, callous and selfish Meredith who, it is revealed in a masterclass of writing from multiple points of view to show not tell, treats Georgy like a skivvy. Meredith becomes pregnant and exercises her choice by seeing it through, so that her boyfriend, Jos, feels he should move in. He then falls for Georgy and while Meredith is in hospital having the baby (no quick in-and-out stays in those days) they become a couple. Not that Meredith is bothered. She has already exercised her choice again by abandoning the baby for adoption. But Georgy has other ideas and sees herself caring for the child with Jos. However, the baby quickly becomes the main focus of Georgy’s affections, and Jos leaves.

Meanwhile, there is a backstory. Georgy’s parents are employed as live-in servants to the wealthy James who, childless, has funded Georgy’s privileged upbringing and education. She doesn’t seem to need to work much. James has also been trying to persuade Georgy to become his mistress and after his wife dies he proposes marriage. Georgy accepts in order to be able to adopt and bring up the baby. 

A readable fast-paced novel, not as soap-opera-ish as it sounds, which fired up Margaret Forster’s reputation as a respected writer. Great characters, not particularly likeable. It may have seemed progressive and even scandalous at the time, but gives little sense that this is what life was really like in the sixties, if it ever did or was.


Key to star ratings: 5*** wonderful and hope to read again, 5* wonderful, 4* enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, 3* enjoyable/interesting, 2* didn't enjoy, 1* gave up.

Previous book reviews 


27 comments:

  1. Well I'll go the foot of our stairs!

    You took me back there Tasker. My dad was always playing his Seekers and Clancy brothers records when I was young. Georgy Girl will be playing in my mental jukebox all day.

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    1. I found the Seekers a bit annoying, partly because they could play and sing so well.

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  2. I too now have that darned song playing over and over in my head. Someone make it stop!

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    1. Sorry. One way to stop it is to think of The Birdie Song.

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  3. I don't know the song, so I simply focus on your review and must say the story does not hold much (if any) appeal for me. Maybe if it were told from the perspective of the adopted child, now grown up, trying to find out more about his or her own background.

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    1. Interesting idea. The book probably seemed very modern at the time, and scandalous, but it has definitely lost that now.

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  4. I didn't know the movie was based on a book! Live and learn.

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    1. I haven't seen the film, but there are plenty of clips on YouTube from which I would say the book is better. Alan Bates does not look right in the Jos role.

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  5. I was a great Margaret Forster fan although in her later years I tailed off a bit. Her stories suddenly seemed rather boring and dated, or perhaps I had changed. She was, of course, married to Hunter Davies, as I am sure you know. famous for writing the authorised biography of the Beatles.

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    1. I've come across several people who like Margaret Forster's books. She was a very able writer. I also remember Hunter Davies in Lake District walking videos.

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    2. She had the ability to craft a story. Not all writers can do this. Dickens could. Hardy could. I have almost given up with novels because it is a rare quality these days.

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    3. Possibly it's why I'm reading old stuff. I'd like to read Hunter Davies' 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' if I can find a reasonably priced copy. I've talked about the film on here somewhere. One recent novel I enjoyed was Matt Haigh's 'How To Stop Time' which I've reviewed.

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  6. I have never read the book but it sounds very good for that time period. I loved the song when it came out. I can see where some people that had not lived through the 1960s might not enjoy it as much. I do think it would have been seen as progressive for it's time period. I enjoyed your review.

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    1. Thanks. See reply to Thelma below. I'm sure you are right in that we've forgotten how people were judged in those days.

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  7. I remember its reviews, back then, but also didn't read it. I think I'll download for a listen while I weave.

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    1. As Rachel says above, Margaret Forster knew how to put a story together.

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  8. Well you have started that song in all our heads. I think having a baby in the 60s as a single mum was far more difficult than we can imagine. History moves on of course and the stigma has long gone.

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    1. I'm sure that's right. Meredith in the book has already had two abortions so decides she might as well have the third child, then demonstrably can't be bothered despite the protestations of the medical staff, and says she wants it adopted. Absolutely horrific attitude.

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  9. Margaret Drabble's The Millstone came out at around the same time, another story of an unmarried mother in the 1960s.

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    1. It is on my pile of books to read at this very moment. Will be interesting to compare.

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    2. It was the book I was reading on the day my father passed away. I sat in the chair by his bed reading it all day. It quietly took my mind off what was happening so I sort of buried myself in the story. Margaret Drabble was a good story teller too. The actual story frightened me because it could easily have been me.

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  10. Replies
    1. Wouldn't go as far as to say it's a recommendation. I enjoyed it (3*) but, especially after the input from other commenters, conclude it no longer has the impact it once had. I use 4* for a recommendation and 5* for something I'd hope to read several times again.

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  11. Add me to the people now humming that song. I saw the movie at the time and remember nothing about it, so I can't say if it was better or worse than the book which I also havent' read. I think I'll pass on it since your review didn't send me quickly to the library for a copy.

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    1. I think the word to describe that song is "insidious". I would say the book is a good read for those like me trying to make sense of the changes that have taken place in our lifetimes, but otherwise there are probably better things to do.

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  12. Gosh! What an honest and comprehensive review of a novel that might have otherwise been buried by history and the passing of years. Well done Mr Dunham! I am already looking forward to your next review. You have set yourself a fascinating task - resurrecting books that once had cultural purchase and speak clearly and interestingly of the days to which they refer.

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I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).