Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Diary of an Ordinary Woman” as Want to Read:
Diary of an Ordinary Woman
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Diary of an Ordinary Woman

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  714 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Margaret Forster presents the 'edited' diary of a woman, born in 1901, whose life spans the twentieth century. On the eve of the Great War, Millicent King begins to keep her journal and vividly records the dramas of everyday life in a family touched by war, tragedy, and money troubles. From bohemian London to Rome in the 1920s her story moves on to social work and the ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 4th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Diary of an Ordinary Woman, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Diary of an Ordinary Woman

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Katherine Gypson
Jul 20, 2013 Katherine Gypson rated it it was amazing
Sometimes when you buy a book, it turns out that you're setting aside a gift for your future self. I bought this book almost two and a half years ago in a Charing Cross Road bookshop during my first trip to London and it's sat on my bookshelves ever since then. I don't know what pushed me to pick it up a few days ago but I could almost instantly tell that it was a case of right book, right time. I was deeply moved by the opportunity to follow one ordinary woman through her life as it spans the ...more
Mar 17, 2010 Margaret rated it really liked it
I picked up a used copy of this in the UK (in Blackwell's in Oxford, I think), solely on the basis of having liked Lady's Maid and Forster's biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I'm glad I picked it up, because it's very good and happened to hit exactly the mood I was in.

The novel is in the form of a diary kept by a woman born in 1901, whose life spans almost the entire twentieth century; Forster writes a long introduction in which she meets Millicent King and agrees to edit her diary for p
Apr 18, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it
I did not have high expectations of this book: the title and the author's reputation persuaded me in advance that it would be light reading. And indeed it was. However, I have to admit to enjoying it far more than I expected.

The author claims at the start that she met the diarist, Millicent King, at her request so that she could re-write the diaries she'd kept throughout most of the twentieth century. From then on we get edited highlights of the diaries interspersed with summaries or commentari
Francene Carroll
Aug 02, 2013 Francene Carroll rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 14, 2011 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-top-10-ever
My mom recommended this and I absolutely loved it. It's the diaries of a woman growing up through the wars in England, and spanning (like 'Any Human Heart') her whole life. Clearly there's something about the diary/memoir style that I really love! Anyway, this book really showed me what things were like to be an ordinary person experiencing the wartime, the depression and all the cultural changes that followed 100 times better than a history lesson. It really gets you to understand the values ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Mew rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
I somehow didn't notice the word 'novel' on the front cover and assumed the story was real. This only slightly changed my opinion on the book - still an interesting book but I would have loved her to have been real.
Nov 21, 2010 Ann rated it it was amazing
Millicent King was just an ordinary woman who lived through two world
wars and the devastating loss that entails, into the age of
anti-nuclear, anti-war, feminist protests and marches of the 1960's and
1970's and even beyond. She was an early feminist, in her own way, who
lived an unconventional, independent life, having a few lovers, and a
long-term relationship outside the bounds of marriage. She seems to
have been an incredibly strong woman. In other words, not so ordinary,
but extraordinary.
Jane Louis-Wood
I have a dim recollection of really enjoying Private Papers by the same author, but was not as impressed by this. The notion that is the edited diary of a real person, introduced by a fictional prologue with the author narrating as herself, was unconvincing, and the editorial notes throughout seemed merely a means of avoiding the more emotionally complex elements of the text (to which the fictional diarist always responds with silence).

There is something unintentionally Pooterish about the diar
Jul 22, 2013 Alex rated it it was ok
It was, exactly as it is entitled, a diary of an ordinary woman. In this case you can judge a book by its cover. I was restraining myself from criticising it while I was reading it because it felt rude to criticise someone's personal thoughts- edited or otherwise. So I was really disappointed to find out at the very end that it is all fictitious. At least now I don't feel so bad pulling it apart.
Feb 10, 2013 Paula rated it really liked it
Deceptively simple in the way it's written. It really made me think about the terrible loses inflicted on ordinary families in times of war. Actually pretty depressing.
Millicent King was a woman ahead of her time. Feisty and independent from a very young age, she refused two proposals of marriage because she wanted to do something "important" but nonetheless embarked on a long-term, secret, and passionate affair with one of her suitors -- a very "liberated" woman for the early 20th century.

After having abandoned short-lived jobs as "shop-girl" and school teacher, Millicent trained for employment as a social worker, a profession still in its infancy at that tim
I started reading this book in July 2012. I finished it mid-February 2013. This probably tells you a lot about my relationship with it.

In any normal circumstance I would never have picked Diary Of An Ordinary Woman up, I only chose to read it as part of my Day Zero challenge to read 5 books recommended to me by other people. To me, the title sounds dull and there is nothing I enjoy less than reading about people. Real people, I mean, with real lives. They're insufferably boring, even when what's
Alison Nickells
Sep 22, 2016 Alison Nickells rated it really liked it
a very well written book which I found very difficult to put down. A real surprise that it wasn't actually based on real diaries as Forster made the lead character so believable .
Sep 04, 2016 Yana rated it it was amazing
You can find a copy of this review at:
I have never been much of diary girl, neither have I ever been keen on reading other people's diary, but something spoke to me and I found myself leaving a car-boot sale with this book in hand, actually looking forward to see what Millicent King had to say about life then. I think it was mostly that fact that I miss my grandmother that made me buy it. My nan was born in 1924, I loved the times when she was telling me s
Apr 19, 2015 Veronica rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
An odd hybrid -- a novel in the form of diaries, with an introduction in which Forster describes how she came by the diaries of Millicent King, a woman as old as the century (she was born in 1901). I imagine Forster is recycling some of the research she did for the joint biography she wrote of her grandmother, her mother, and herself (which I haven't read).

Millicent's life is resolutely ordinary (apart from its length -- she lives to the age of 98) -- but I found her story curiously involving. M
Jun 11, 2013 Kalika rated it really liked it
An extraordinary account of an ordinary woman's life through pre-WWI England, right up to the millennium. Margaret Foster's fictionalized account is so plausible, complete with boring entries, omissions that are never explained, and periodic obsessions that exclude any description of supposedly important events of the time, that you actually do forget that these are not real diaries, and the account of the author being invited by the writer of the diaries is also a part of the fiction. I was ...more
Danielle Lentz
Write a review...I loved and thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an interesting slice of social history that spanned over several decades of great social, economic and technological changes. Though this was entitled Diary of an Ordinary Woman-Millicent King was far from ordinary-she was a free thinker always looking for the new and a desire to be more than what was considered the acceptable life. She was a woman of extra-ordinary courage who faced a lot of personal trials and tribulations. Some ...more
Aug 28, 2016 Alarie rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This is a novel but reads so convincingly as a diary that it will appeal to readers of memoir. The premise is that Margaret Forster was approached by the family of woman who began writing her diary in 1914 at age thirteen and continued it into her eighties. They wanted a professional writer’s help in editing the many volumes into a cohesive and manageable read for others. This enables Forster to skim over less interesting periods of Millicent’s life. Imagine living in England, growing up in a ...more
Apr 14, 2016 Carole rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and have been reading more Margaret Forster since including her non-fiction books. I find the theme of women and marriage in the early to mid 20th century and indeed in today's society a fascinating subject and this novel just gave me another aspect of these themes to consider. I found myself frustrated that the main character didn't do more at times and then had to remind myself to consider the social, cultural, political and educational context for women at the time something ...more
Es hat eine ganze Weile gedauert, bis ich dieses Buch endlich mal zur Hand genommen habe. Aber dann war ich doch positiv überrascht. Denn obwohl Millie selbst keine spektakuläre Persönlichkeit war, und auch mehr oder weniger nur ihr Alltagsleben in ihren Tagebüchern notiert, hat sie doch einige historisch wichtige Ereignisse miterlebt. Und so können auch wir Anteil haben am Leben einer einigermaßen gut situierten Londoner Familie. Mit viel Interesse habe ich Millies Leben verfolgt, besonders in ...more
Dec 24, 2015 Mya rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 09, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 02, 2013 Gill rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this overview of the 20th. Century seen through the eyes of an 'ordinary' woman. Through her eyes we see events and society. She feels she hasn't done much with her life but, in fact, those women purporting to 'do' something meaningful such as Daphne and Conny, actually do far less.
The novel begs the question 'What is ordinary?' Certainly she is better off than many around her but she is not wealthy. She is prey to the hopes and fears of us all and though she says she is not a
May 17, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
At first presented as the edited diaries of Millicent, a woman who lived through the 20th century, this is in fact a fictionalised memoir. It is an incredibly detailed forgery of an unlived life. The background of social and political change is meticulously accurate, but the tone of the diary captures the reality of diaries – the apathy and minor grievances which often crowd out great events, silly prejudices and the gradual shift in character as Millicent grows old. Above all this diary is an ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Yeemay rated it really liked it
I got this because the last time I read Forster, The lady's Maid, many years ago I became unbearably unsociable whilst on holiday because I just couldn't put it down. And I'm so glad I did because I enjoyed this immensely. I was so convinced at one point I thought fleetingly "why wasn't this in the social history section?". This would actually make a great read alongside David Kynaston's social history books of the same periods. It was moving, compelling, it picked up those threads of public ...more
Terry S
Jul 10, 2015 Terry S rated it liked it
First half of the book I couldn't put it down, second half really dragged out too much and I found myself skimming pages towards the end. The first half was all about Millicent herself as it should have been, but towards the end it was all about Connie and others and got quite boring. Really enjoyed the earlier descriptions of life in the early part of the century, and especially wartime, but it was almost as if - once the war was over- Millicent had no life worth reporting so it was padded out ...more
May 31, 2012 Renske rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Renske by: Jo
This book was an enjoyable read. I loved to get a view of Milly's life and her experiences even though some have been very painful for her. The decription of war time was very interesting for me because I have never read an acount of the war from the perspective of a British citizen and therefor this was an eye opener. I was also suprised to find out how feministic and indepent Milly was her her time and therefor I found the end of the novel very shocking.
Carolyn Somerville
Sep 22, 2014 Carolyn Somerville rated it liked it
I picked this up from the library at work, mostly because I liked the cover photo (love hats) and I was immediately intrigued by someone keeping a diary for pretty much her entire life and then handing them over to an author. The middle of the book was the most interesting, during WWII and the end was very disappointing and a let down. I was also very disappointed to read the author's note at the end of the book. It should not have ruined the book for me, but it did.
Nov 05, 2014 Catherine rated it liked it
An interesting slice of social history presented as the 'edited diaries' of Millicent, born in 1901. The book spans the 20th century, giving a bottom-up view of the events that shaped the world and touched the lives of Millicent and those around her. I found the lack of resolution in some threads of the narrative a little disappointing. But this reflects 'real' life, where loose ends are not always neatly tied, and so probably makes the diaries more authentic.
Jun 26, 2016 Gemma rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes
  • Henrietta Sees It Through: More News from the Home Front 1942-1945 (The Bloomsbury Group)
  • The Flowers Of The Field
  • Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education
  • Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49
  • At Mrs Lippincote's
  • Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45
  • The Quest for El Cid
  • Latecomers
  • Island of Wings
  • The Shape Of Sand
  • In God's Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I
  • Things My Mother Never Told Me. Blake Morrison
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home
  • The Wilder Shores of Love
  • After Julius
  • Tragedy at Law (Francis Pettigrew, #1)
  • Grace and Mary
Margaret Forster was educated at the Carlisle and County High School for Girls. From here she won an Open Scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where in 1960 she was awarded an honours degree in History.

From 1963 Margaret Forster worked as a novelist, biographer and freelance literary critic, contributing regularly to book programmes on television, to Radio 4 and various newpapers and magazin
More about Margaret Forster...

Share This Book