Isa and May
An engaging, intriguing novel which will appeal straight to Margaret Forster’s heartland, about a young woman, her two very different grandmothers, Isa and May, and the secrets that families keep.
Margaret Forster, in this engaging, intriguing novel, about a young woman and two grandmothers, uncovers the shocking truths that family history reveals.
The curiously named Isamay, a would-be academic, is trying to write a coherent thesis about grandmothers in history – from Sarah Bernhardt and George Sand to the matriarchal Queen Victoria and other influential grannies – while constantly ambushed by the secrets her own family has been keeping. An only child, she is named after her grandmothers, Isa and May, who were there at her birth and who have formed and influenced her in very different ways. Jealous of each other, they both want to be first in their granddaughter’s affections. Isa has an edge, in that young Isamay looks like her, but Isa’s reserved and elegant exterior hides startling surprises that could undermine her granddaughter’s certainties. May, on the other hand, is plump, indomitable and opinionated, and it’s from her that Isamay inherits her stubborn determination.
Isamay, almost thirty, has never wanted children, but suddenly considers changing her mind. Her live-in lover, Ian (always mysterious about his own family history) is sure that he does not want a child.
Engrossing, set in the present but with hooks into the past, this is an unusual story about grandmothers and their potentially powerful role in family life, about nature vs nurture, bloodlines and bridges across generations.
Praise for Isa and May
Enjoyable and memorableSue Gaisford, Financial Times
[Forster] has written so brilliantly about female relationships... she can encapsulate a whole scene in a single sentence... [a] whole rich, fascinating novelKate Saunders, Literary Review
A deliciously observed, dilemma-and-drama-packed readHelen Brown, Daily Mail
Sensitive and intelligent novel with passages of beautifully modulated pathos, while being in part, hugely funnyMatthew Dennison, The Times
A compelling story, sometimes funny, sometimes painfully sad ... All family life is here, messy, insistent and, as the author convincingly shows, as essential as breathingPenny Perrick, Sunday Times
Curious, compelling storySunday Telegraph
Margaret Forster has always had the enviable gift of making her characters spring to life, and both Isa and May do just thatAllan Massie, The Scotsman
Margaret Forster's professional skills and accomplishment are to the fore, as usualPaul Bailey, Independent
A compelling portrait of family lifeBig Issue North
In a classic Forster novel about class and generational upheaval, here the author writes tenderly about the influence of grandmothers and their desire, as Sand put it, to "stuff" their grandchildren "with happiness"Emma Hagestadt, Independent
Captivating... Like a beloved granny's visit, we're a little bit sorry to see the end approachingIrish Times
This rich novel, full of pathos, concerns the unbridgeable gaps between generationsDaily Telegraph