Sometimes radio really gets things right. And it does what only radio can.
Today the death of the novelist Margaret Forster was announced. Most of the coverage tagged her as best known for “Georgy Girl”, one of the defining books of the sixties, filmed with Lynn Redgrave in 1966. Two programmes did her proper justice.
A Good Read
Radio 4 Extra by good fortune paid a fantastic tribute. Her novel, “Have the Men had Enough?”, centred around the impact of a grandmother’s dementia on family relationships, was one of three featured in “A Good Read”, the gentle book programme, re-broadcast from 2001.Anne Enright, the Irish writer, and Jan Ravens, the actress, engaged in a positive, nuanced and insightful discussion about both the book and dementia with the host Harriet Gilbert. There is no more fitting tribute to a novelist than to have your work explored with sensitivity and good will.
“Have the Men had Enough?” was brought to life – the way it animates dementia as a feminist issue with differential gender impact, the particular bonding and pressure on women, the way men act more coldly and less engaged with the emotion, the complexities of intergenerational relationships and the attitudes to decisions around home and care.
It was as deep and engaging a discussion on dementia as I have heard for some time, prompted by a novel of depth and engagement itself.
Whereas the news coverage framed Margaret Forster in terms of her best known work, her famous husband and clips from Desert Island Discs, this straightforward, unpretentious exchange built around another of her works. It paid the best possible tribute to a writer who did so much more than the one-line headline obituaries.
And for “Have the Men had Enough?” she deserves more than that. And got it.
Melvyn Bragg also popped up on Front Row on Radio 4, providing a genuinely appreciative and objective insight into her work. This too is worth a listen.
A Good Read is available on IPlayer Radio
Front Row on 8/2/16 is available on IPlayer Radio