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Hunter Davies pays tribute after novelist Margaret Forster dies at Hampstead hospice

PUBLISHED: 15:17 08 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:17 08 February 2016

Margaret Forster with husband Hunter Davies. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Margaret Forster with husband Hunter Davies. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton

Acclaimed novelist Margaret Forster has died at Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, her husband Hunter Davies announced today.

Margaret Forster has died aged 77. Picture: Nigel SuttonMargaret Forster has died aged 77. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The 77-year-old award-winning author, whose books include Georgy Girl and Diary Of An Ordinary Woman, died this morning after suffering from cancer in her back.

Mr Davies, also a writer and journalist, of Dartmouth Park, said: “She had a double mastectomy 40 years ago so she’s had a remarkable life considering she had it for so long.”

Born in Carlisle, Ms Forster was a teacher at a girls’ school in Islington before her writing career took off.

Her big break came with Georgy Girl, the story of a young woman in 1960s London who is romantically pursued by her father’s older employer and the young lover of her promiscuous and pregnant flatmate.

She lived with her husband, the writer of the only authorised biography of The Beatles, in Dartmouth Park.

Mr Davies said: “She was the cleverest woman I ever met. But actually she was clever in a much better and nicer way.

“She was emotionally clever, in that she could always understand people and predict their actions and their feelings and their motives, which I can never do. And she was a brilliant critic as well.

“Always had an opinion whether asked for it or not, and she was just the most marvellous woman. She was not interested in money. She was not interested in publicity.”

He said his wife wrote about 27 novels, and never wanted to be interviewed.

“In fact, she had an agreement with her publisher not to do literary lunches or do any broadcasting, and she actually didn’t care whether the books were published or not,” he said.

“Her fun was in writing them and if the publisher didn’t want to publish it, so what? She’d move on to the next one,” he said.

Mr Davies added: “She was a remarkable woman in every way.”

Ms Forster had spent about a month in hospice care in Lyndhurst Gardens before passing away.

In a Sunday Times article published on February 7, Mr Davies wrote: “My wife, who has generally gone through life fitter, stronger and healthier than me, has gone into a hospice for respite care.

“So for the past four weeks I have been on my own, feeling dazed and disoriented.”

In 2014, Mr Davies reported that his wife was distinctly unimpressed when he was awarded an OBE for “services to literature”.

He said: “I told my wife and she said ‘You’re not going to accept it’... She said that if it had been a knighthood she would have divorced me.”

Ms Forster was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975.

The literary organisation wrote on Twitter: “We are sad to hear the news of the death of writer and RSL Fellow Margaret Forster.”

Ms Forster was also an acclaimed non-fiction author, with her biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning winning the Heinemann Award in 1989, and her work, Daphne Du Maurier: The Secret Life Of The Renowned Storyteller, winning the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction in 1993.

In 2014 she wrote a memoir, My Life In Houses, which told the story of her life from a Carlisle council estate, via Oxford, to Hampstead and her Lake District homes.

It followed two previous memoirs, Hidden Lives and Precious Lives, which focused on her family and their history.

Her latest novel, How To Measure A Cow, will be released on March 3.

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