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Keeping the World Away


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'Forster-lovers will not be disappointed by her depiction of a cornered creativity and its persisting power to subvert and enchant' - Sally Vickers, Guardian.

About the Author

Born in Carlisle, Margaret Forster was the author of many successful and acclaimed novels, including Have the Men Had Enough?, Lady's Maid, Diary of an Ordinary Woman, Is There Anything You Want? , Keeping the World Away, Over and The Unknown Bridesmaid. She also wrote bestselling memoirs - Hidden Lives, Precious Lives and, most recently, My Life in Houses - and biographies. She was married to writer and journalist Hunter Davies and lived in London and the Lake District. She died in February 2016, just before her last novel, How to Measure a Cow, was published.


An enigmatic painting by Gwen John created as the young English artist pined for her neglectful lover, Rodin, connects the disparate characters in this century-spanning sentimental tale. Forlorn Gwen paints a canvas of a corner of her Paris flat intended to "signify herself--calm, peaceful, content" and gives it to a friend, who misplaces it. So begins the painting's journey as it ends up in the possession of an artistically bankrupt teenager, an impoverished nurse, a downtrodden farmer, a scorned wife, an aging woman returning to Paris after a long absence and, finally, a promising art student, all of whom find either strength or solace in the valuable work. Though the men characters are less than convincing, Forster captures a wide swath of 20th-century European womanhood. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Forster's style is easy and unpretentious. In a brief paragraph she can create a character we care about, a story we long to see resolved" -- Sue Gaisford * Independent on Sunday *
"Few authors share Margaret Forster's extraordinary ability to transform the ordinary day-to-day activities of unremarkable people into compelling fiction" * Daily Mail *
"A fine novel... an inspired reflection on the redemptive potential of art" * Mail on Sunday *
"The characters are fully developed and differentiated...there is harrowing emotional insight; it also contains elements of real comedy" -- Matthew Dennison * The Times *
"Her historical skills are, as always, matched by her marvellous empathy... A finely crafted novel" * Sunday Times *

One small painting, a still life of a corner of an attic room, is the thread that ties this moving novel together. Gwen, a young woman who defies tradition and moves from London to Paris to pursue a career as an artist, finds herself in a passionate affair with the sculptor Rodin. When he casts her aside, Gwen uses her anguish to create a painting that is so simple in composition and yet so complex in emotion that it affects each woman who subsequently owns it. Forster (Lady's Maid) interweaves all of the women's stories in such a clever way that they are united by more than just the painting. After Gwen, we meet awkward, intelligent Charlotte, then Stella, emotionally wounded and trying to paint. They are followed by Lucasta, a successful painter, and Ailsa, bravely independent after her husband's death. Finally, we are introduced to young and curious Gillian. Their stories span decades, and the similarities among the women are subtle yet profound. Each one must struggle with the urge for balance between solitude and opening her life to others. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.-Anna M. Nelson, Collier Cty. P.L., Naples, FL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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