Margaret Forster writes fiction that is convincingly, disturbingly real, rooted in the experiences of ordinary lives. As in Carol Shields’s Unless, this novel takes a heartbreaking look at a mother’s anguish.
Over is a novel Margaret Forster writes fiction that is convincingly, disturbingly real, rooted in the experiences of ordinary lives. As in Carol Shields’s Unless, this novel takes a heartbreaking look at a mother’s anguish.
Over is a novel about what happens after a tragedy in a family. Not the tragedy itself but its aftermath; what’s left when the tide recedes and it’s over. A daughter has died, suddenly, shockingly, and the different ways in which her parents respond to the tragedy, and how this affects the other siblings, is at the heart of things. The sad story is narrated by the mother, Louise, who is trying to hold herself together and get on with life, trying to understand not “what happened,” but what has happened to them all in the wake of the accident. Only gradually do we learn some of the details of the tragedy — a storm blew up, a yacht capsized, but the body was never found. Louise’s husband cannot come to terms with the lack of knowledge and uncertainty and becomes obsessive in his quest for a reason and someone to blame. His wife just wants to come to terms with it. She moves out of the home and goes back to work. Their other children can’t deal with the way their parents are tearing the family and each other apart.
With characteristic subtlety, Forster holds back the essential truth till the end, when we realize that Louise is not as reliable as her matter-of-fact narration suggests. Her determination to deal with grief in her own way, and her refusal to be defined by tragedy has its dangers and this is where the real tragedy lies.