Georgy Girl by Margaret Forster
Margaret Forster is somehow one of those familiar authors, although I’ve read any of her books. Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve seen several of her books in shops; The Memory Box is a title that stuck in my mind. Although I’ve no idea how old she is, or what she looks like, I didn’t associate her with the 1960s – untill I came across my late Mum’s copy of the paperback of Georgy Girl and discovered it was published in 1965!
It turns out that Forster was born in 1938 and is married to The Beatles biographer Hunter Davies. Georgy girl was her third novel, and she’s written twenty five in total plus around a dozen books of biography, history and memoir. Her latest novel Isa and May was published in 2010, so one hopes there are more to come. So on to the book …
Georgina is a big gangly girl. She is not very interested in her looks, and has never had a proper boyfriend She’s a younger 1960s version of TV’s Miranda. Her parents are the live-in housekeeper and valet of rich toff James who, unhappily married to Nelly, has treated George like the daughter he never had, but now has other designs on her.
‘… I’ve done a lot for you, George, and I’ll do a lot more. Give me a kiss.’
George dutifully pecked at him. He usually stood still and let her peck, but now he seized her and kissed her full on the mouth. His hands wandered up and down her body until her laugh sent them swiftly back to his sides.
‘What are you laughing at?’ he said, panting.
‘It’s so lovely,’ said George. She waltzed round him, spreading out her arms. ‘What more could a girl want than a devoted uncle who adores encouraging her to make an absolute idiot of herself and then declares himself passionately. It just makes me feel so happy, Jimsy-Wimsy, to know I haven’t been reared in vain. No, I’ve been specially designed to satisfy the most fussy of perverts.’
James struggled not to strike her. Shakily, he mopped his lips with his handkerchief and cursed himself for touching her. He wanted her very much. He always had, ever since he had realized no one else saw how desirable she really was.
James goes on to offer her a contract to be set up as his mistress, paying for everything. Georgy plays for time before making the decision for she is enjoying her new-found freedom. Since she moved out, she has a job teaching dance to children, she has a one bedroom flat which she shares with Meredith, a violinist who is going out with Jos, a double bass player from Derbyshire.
Meredith and Jos’s relationship is based purely on sex. Jos knows it can’t last, Meredith being a renowned bed-hopper, and he can’t help looking at George…
Her mouth was too big and her jaw too heavy and that stupid pony tail didn’t help, but she wasn’t ugly. Her figure was about fifty times better than Meredith’s.
‘In fact,’ he said, ‘you just miss being beautiful.’
Things get complicated when Meredith gets pregnant. Jos feels he has to marry her, but as you might guess, she’s not the one he really wants…
Georgy is a wonderful creation. She’s enjoying life, but you do feel that underneath she wants to be a homemaker. She’s waiting for her prince to come, and you sense it’s not going to be Jos either.
Many parts of this novel reminded me of Beryl Bainbridge’s books which would follow in the 1970s: from Georgy and Meredith sharing a bedroom like Freda and Brenda in The Bottle Factory Outing, to the complicated ménages of Sweet William. But Forster isn’t concerned in exploiting the comedy in Georgy’s situation as Beryl would do, instead we empathise with Georgy completely as she explores adult life. Georgy has the best of both worlds. In her early twenties, she has her independence, but she can always go home. Relations with her parents are a bit tense though with them being dependent on James for a living.
What I always find interesting in reading books from this period though is the sense of ‘carpe diem’ that pervades them. The young things in these dramas may not be so far from the kitchen sink, but they do live for the moment, and that keeps it fresh. This book was yet another discovery for me, leaving me hungry for more Forster. (8.5/10)
I’d also like to read a lot more novels set in the 1950s through to the 1970s, that means more Beryl, more Spark, more O’Brien for starters – I’m sure you can suggest some others of the same ilk for me to explore too.
I’d also like to see the 1966 film of Georgy Girl – with it’s all star cast. Forster co-adapted the screenplay from her novel. I shall leave you though with a clip of Australian band The Seekers singing the Oscar-nominated theme tune to the movie – are you all ready to sing along?
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I inherited this book. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Georgy Girl by Margaret Forster, Vintage paperback, 176 pages.