The Principal and Fellows of Somerville College were saddened to learn of the recent death of Margaret Forster (1957, History), Somervillian and acclaimed novelist.
A committed feminist, writer of over 40 books, and fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Forster made her name with the novel Georgy Girl, which was made into a film. There has been an outpouring of tributes over the past few weeks, and we have included a selection of some of the obituaries below.
Margaret Forster, who was born in Carlisle in 1938, grew up in the Raffels Council Estate. Her father was a mechanic and her mother gave up her job as a secretary to raise a family. Margaret worked hard at school and was a talented actress, artist and debater.
Her hard work at school was recognised and, in a tribute on Radio 4’s Front Row, Melvyn Bragg said that in 1957 when he was at school in Wigton, Margaret was already a legend – after she won an open scholarship to both Oxford and Cambridge and got her picture on the front page of the Cumberland News.
Forster was offered a Coombs Scholarship at Somerville, and wrote about her time here in her autobiography, My Life in Houses. An earlier book, Dames’ Delight, drew on her undergraduate experience to satirical effect. In a touching tribute from her husband, journalist Hunter Davis in The Times, he mentions the honorary fellowship that Somerville tried to grant Margaret Forster:
“Later on, as a successful author, she was asked by her old college, Somerville, to be an honorary fellow. The letter said she would be allowed a room in college whenever she liked and dinner at High Table for her and her partner. Brilliant, I said, that will save us a fortune. She turned it down.”
Margaret Forster was renowned for being publicity-shy, rarely giving interviews, refusing to appear at book signing events and turning down honours. In the same tribute from Hunter Davis, he remembers she once tried to turn down an invitation to 10 Downing Street from Tony Blair.
Margaret Forster is survived by her husband Hunter Davies and their three children and four grandchildren. Her latest novel, How to Measure a Cow is due out on 3rd March 2016.