book cover

Good Wives by Margaret Forster

About the book

In 1848 Mary Moffatt became the wife of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone – and her obedience and devotion eventually killed her. In 1960, Margaret Forster married her school sweetheart Hunter Davies in a London Registry Office – and interpreted the role very differently. Between these two marriages is a huge gulf in which the notion of marriage changed immeasurably. Forster traces the shift in emphasis from submission to partnership, first through the marriage of one unconventional American, Fanny Osbourne, to Robert Louis Stevenson, in the late nineteenth century; and then through that of Jennie Lee to Aneurin Bevan in the 1930s. Why does a woman still want to be a wife in the twenty-first century? What is the value of marriage today? Why do couples still marry in church? These are some of the questions Forster asks as she weaves the personal experience of forty years through the stories of three wives who have long fascinated her.

Reviewed by Alton Library Reading Group:

Found this book most interesting – would not have picked it up without the book club – so helped us read “outside our box”. Proved stimulating for discussion – everyone commented – even the one male in our group. Highlighted differences in times/attitudes/social situations.

Star rating: ***

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7 thoughts on “Good Wives by Margaret Forster”

  1. Review by Basingstoke Library Tues Reading Group :
    The group enjoyed this book and found it very interesting and thought provoking. Well researched. Didn’t always agree with the author, but this made for a good discussion in what makes a good wife. Recommended for a lively discussion.
    Star rating: ***


  2. Review by Arle Reading Group:
    This is a well researched and well written book about the lives of four very different women. It provides great insight into the ways in which married women’s lives and the way they are treated by society have changed since the early 1800s to the present day.
    Rating: 3 Stars


  3. Review by Anton Bookies Reading Group:
    We found this book very interesting and an educational read. It was fascinating to learn of the changing roles of wives since Victorian times and we thought it was excellently researched. We would recommend this book as a very good read.
    Star rating: ****


  4. Review by Hedge End WI
    Well researched and much to learn about Victorian life i.e. the African and Samoan lifestyle. The book shattered many myths about well known people. The author was considered patronising by a few members, 50% enjoyed the book.
    Star rating: ***


  5. Review by Southampton U3A:
    This was an interesting, well researched non-fiction book. However, some members thought it was over-long and that the author allowed her own views on the status of women to colour her narrative.
    Star rating: ***


  6. Review by Enjoying Books Reading Group:
    A most interesting read – it stimulated a great deal of discussion. Showed the changing role of wives.
    Star rating: ***


  7. Review by Ems Valley U3A
    Well written. Interesting insight into the marriage of people from different eras.
    Star rating:


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