Just finished reading Over by Margaret Forster.  She is one of my favourite authors, and although this was not my favourite of her books, it didn’t disappoint.  Her books nearly always focus on different aspects of women’s life – usually very ‘ordinary’ women – and explore the complexities and dilemmas of identity and femininity, family, motherhood and relationships.  She is also a biographer, having written on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Daphne du Maurier, and a couple of semi-autobiographical works.

Over is quite a short book, and therefore didn’t take too long to read.  It is told from the viewpoint of Louise, a infant school teacher and mother of three children.  Forster explores the ripples that emanate through her life and family after one of her twin daughters dies in a tragic sailing accident.  She deals expertly and sensitively with the portrayal of grief, and how different characters’ differing reactions to the tragedy tear at the bonds between those left behind.  Louise’s husband Don is stubbornly set on a vendetta of blame, determined to prove the accident was not an accident but due to some fault of human workmanship that can be pinned to an individual.  When he refuses to see how his inability to let go and move on is isolating him from the rest of the family and antagonising them, Louise feels she has no choice but to move out in order to be able to deal with her grief in her own way.

Over is a novel about the complex networks of love that bind families together, and although told from Louise’s viewpoint, Forster manages not to condemn any one way of dealing with the grief that occurs when those networks are damaged.  She deals eloquently with the ramifications of each characters’ emotions and actions and in doing so has produced an insightful study of human character and emotion.

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