A wonderful exploration by the best- selling and much loved author of HIDDEN LIVES into what it means to be a wife, particularly a 'good wife', then and now, looked at though the lives and marriages of four extraordinary women in different eras
In 1848 Mary Moffatt became the devoted wife of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone in Africa and it eventually killed her. A hundred and twelve years later, in 1960, Margaret Forster married her high school sweetheart Hunter Davies in a London Register Office and forty years later they are still married. Between those two marriages and their experience is a huge gulf during which time women's lives changed immeasurably, and the notion of marriage evolved through the other two marriages here under the spotlight, that of the unconventional Fanny Stevenson (wife of Robert Louis Stevenson0 in the late 19th century and across continents, and of our own charismatic 20th century Jennie Lee (wife of Aneurin Bevan) a politician in her own right. But curiously some aspects and attitudes remained fixed and immutable and found an echo in Forster's own life. Have these fixed points finally shifted now, with a coming of the 21st century? What was and is now a good wife? Why do many women still get married? Why do others not? Why do couples still marry in church in an age of unbelief? Taking up where HIDDEN LIVES left off, these are some of the questions of her own mother and grandmother, through the stories of three women who have long fascinated her. The emphasis is on aspects of these women's lives never focused on before, on the kind of personal and intimate and everyday detail which has intriqued and gripped readers of Forster's memoirs, biographies and fiction.