“My Life in Houses” by Margaret Forster – an interesting way to write a biography

I have been a fan of Margaret Forster’s writing for many years and read most of her books, especially the non-fiction. My Life in Houses therefore, as a semi-autobiographical volume, does contain some information and anecdotes about the author’s life that I had previously read. I didn’t really have a problem with that as there is plenty of new material and also as it becomes obvious as the book progresses that her diagnosis of terminal cancer meant that she would never write a standard autobiography.

The author tells her life story around the basis of the houses in which she has lived. The houses don’t just provide a background for her life but also each reflect something that the author wishes to say about class and social aspiration. We see her first house as she was born in Carlisle and then share with her in the huge change as her family moved into an up to date council house. We then share in her experiences of renting in London and her tales of fellow lodgers together with an interlude in a Malta and a holiday home in Britain. The author feels that houses are important to people and reflect more than just their disposable income so she shares how these houses became home and what made them important to her.

This book is written in a light-hearted and anecdotal way but it is the story of the life of a working class girl who became a world renowned author and how that is reflected in where she lives. I thought that the anecdotes of her life were enlightening (especially that of the Beatles who visited her home after her husband had written a biography of them). There are lots of fascinating details about life in Carlisle and London since the war mixed in with the personal stories.

Having read this book I am tempted to review my own life in the same way – it’s an interesting and revealing way of looking at things.