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( Read E-pub ) ⚠ The Unknown Bridesmaid õ When Julia was eight, she was asked to be a bridesmaid at her beautiful cousin Iris s wedding Her mother saw this as a chore expensive, inconvenient but Julia was thrilled When the time came, even the fact that her bridesmaid s dress didn t fit, and was plain cream rather than the pink she d hoped for, couldn t ruin the day But after this, things began to go wrong for Julia, starting with an episode involving her cousin s baby, a pram and a secret trip round the block A lifetime later, Julia is a child psychologist who every day deals with young girls said to be behaving badly Some are stealing, some are running away from home, some are terribly untidy, some won t eat or get out of bed Julia has a special knack with these girls She understands which really are troubled, and which are at the mercy of the way they are seen by the adults around them But one day, Julia s own troubled past starts to creep into her present And as she struggles to understand her childhood self, she must confront the possibility that the truth may not be as devastating as she feared The Unknown Bridesmaid is Margaret Forster s 26th novel, the most famous of which is Georgy Girl 1965 I ve read seven of these, and enjoyed them all, so I pounced when I saw this one at the library, even though I have two of hers on the TBR, including her award winning biography of Daphne du Maurier Well, strike while the iron is hot, eh It s an intense, claustrophobic novel, centred on Julia, the unknown bridesmaid of the title when she was a little girl, and a child psychologist now Broug The Unknown Bridesmaid is Margaret Forster s 26th novel, the most famous of which is Georgy Girl 1965 I ve read seven of these, and enjoyed them all, so I pounced when I saw this one at the library, even though I have two of hers on the TBR, including her award winning biography of Daphne du Maurier Well, strike while the iron is hot, eh It s an intense, claustrophobic novel, centred on Julia, the unknown bridesmaid of the title when she was a little girl, and a child psychologist now Brought up by her strict, embittered single mother and excluded from matters deemed not suitable for children, she has a childhood full of guilt and anxiety The wedding at which she was bridesmaid was a brief moment of colour and sunshine in a grey and gloomy life, and it is after that wedding that things that are not really her fault start to go badly wrong.Julia s story told in the third person but always from her point of view is interspersed with vignettes from her work with disturbed children With some of these children, the problem is really the mother, not the child There are a couple of distant or vague fathers, but it is mostly the mothers Mothers with unrealistic expectations, mothers with no respect for a girl s need for privacy, mothers demanding gratitude, mothers who want their children to be what they are not Mothers withholding intimacy Unloving mothers And this is the problem with the other children too, except that their behaviours have escalated into criminal behaviours like shoplifting or violence against other children.As the novel progresses, the calm, reasonable, empathetic child psychologist is revealed not only as a wary, guilt ridden child herself, but also as quite malevolent To read the rest of my review please visit Sigmund Freud s daughter, Anna, also a psychoanalyst , stated, The most sophisticated defense mechanism I ever encountered was becoming a psychotherapist It is a common belief among those of us in psychiatry I am a pediatric psychiatric RN that psychologists psychiatrists therapists pursue this profession in order to overcome their own problems Many suffered great loss or were marginalized as children, and thus developed a desire to help other emotionally damaged individuals This is not u Sigmund Freud s daughter, Anna, also a psychoanalyst , stated, The most sophisticated defense mechanism I ever encountered was becoming a psychotherapist It is a common belief among those of us in psychiatry I am a pediatric psychiatric RN that psychologists psychiatrists therapists pursue this profession in order to overcome their own problems Many suffered great loss or were marginalized as children, and thus developed a desire to help other emotionally damaged individuals This is not unlike Forster s protagonist, Julia, a child psychologist Julia s father died when she was five, and her mother, although present, was emotionally unavailable at best Best not to ask anything was her mother s mantra, so Julia learned to cope as a child via isolation and obedience Later, when negative emotions overwhelmed her, she reacted with secret transgressions, and one innocent rebellion that caused her life long guilt At 48, after seeing a photograph of herself as an eight year old bridesmaid, Julia suffered the worst kind of cognitive dissonance This bridesmaid was a stranger to her now, and unknown bridesmaid.As a psychologist, Julia assesses troubled young girls The sulky and truculent clients don t vex Julia she sympathizes with them, and has valuable insight into their problems Everything, in every person s life, led back to childhood, a truism which she d found could not be stressed enough Like herself, many of the girls were injured by a callous mother, and Julia recognizes this Despite Julia s crimes and misdemeanors, her hardened heart is merciful, softer in the center She s dismal and damaged herself, but intriguing and complicated.The novel alternates back and forth between Julia s failed childhood and her successful adult years, with an ineluctable collision and confrontation of both Foster s tightly restrained prose gradually peels away Julia s protective barriers and her barely controlled panic Underscoring this is a sense of dread My only complaint is that the frisson of excitement I felt throughout the narrative, anticipating an electric denouement, fizzled a bit at the end It was anti climactic and bland, a platitude unworthy of this author, who had already shown us the goods, so she didn t need to explain them There had always been in her this meanness which every now and again got out of control Ignore the sweet looking hints of the cover The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster is the story of Julia, a strangely disaffected child who becomes a successful child psychologist It s Julia s job to explore the hidden corners of culpability in her patients anti social, self destructive and sometimes deviant behaviour, and yet this is the very thing that Julia sidesteps so neatly in her own past andThere had always been in her this meanness which every now and again got out of control Ignore the sweet looking hints of the cover The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster is the story of Julia, a strangely disaffected child who becomes a successful child psychologist It s Julia s job to explore the hidden corners of culpability in her patients anti social, self destructive and sometimes deviant behaviour, and yet this is the very thing that Julia sidesteps so neatly in her own past and present The Unknown Bridesmaid, the twenty sixth novel from the author, is subtle and intelligent, but farthan that, this is a dark tale of self deception and motivation in which the murky impulses of the main character lurk just beneath the surface of her actions.Julia is just eight years old when she s invited back to Manchester to be a bridesmaid for her cousin Iris Julia s mother is surprised by the invitation as she and her sister Maureen aren t close Even Julia recognizes thather mother and her aunt were engaged in some sort of complicated battle,and there s the sense that Maureen s life took a turn for the better while Julia s mother s did not We re given an impression of Julia s mother, and it isn t pleasant Julia s mother did not immediately accept the invitation for Julia to be a bridesmaid she waited three days, and then she rang her sister up, saying she doubted whether Julia could accept because of the expense involved There would be the dress, the shoes, the flowers, and she had no money to spare for any of those things She reminded her sister that she was a widow on a small, a very small, pension Her sister was furious, but she tried to keep the anger at Julia s mother boasting of her poverty which is how she regarded it out of her voice She reminded herself that her sister had had a hard time, and was indeed quite poor, whereas she herself was comparatively well off, and ought to be magnanimous She said her sister was not to worry about the expense She said that of course she would pay for Julia s outfit and everything that went with it She had always intended to and should have made this clear If Julia s measurements were sent, a dress would be made and shoes bought.Julia as a bridesmaid is not the main gist of the story, but it is a pivotal event in which we see Julia for the first time She s an odd child If we want to be kind we d call her quiet, and if we dislike Julia, we d call her sneaky It s at Iris s wedding that we first grasp the idea that Julia has a certain emotional disconnect from the people around her Iris is a wonderful young woman, warm, kind, loving and much loved, and joyful, yet Julia, much like her own dreary, joyless mother, holds back, andsees how everyone was in thrall to her cousin The wedding is just the first event in a chain of tragedy that binds Julia to her relatives in Manchester Financial circumstances and a dark secret involving Julia s father bring Julia and her mother back to Manchester to live, and so the lives of the two sets of relatives twine together initially through the wedding and then through death A horrible incident occurs involving Julia, and she may or may not be responsible She was the one who had always, as a child, wanted to ask questions but had been trained not to She liked being asked them, too, or thought she did until the questions became tricky and she began to worry about what her answers were revealing, to herself, as much as to the questioner.Julia shoves aside her involvement and the hint of guilt and plunges ahead into a childhood and adolescence full of emotionally disconnected acts of casual cruelty towards the other people in her life As she grows into her teens, the acts becomes increasinglyserious and focused.The Unknown Bridesmaid maintains a quietly restrained narrative tone while exploring how a close knit group of people deal with a young girl who s emotionally disturbed As the narrative goes back and forth in time between the past and the present, there s a fine film over all these events which covers obscures Julia s culpability and intentions Julia s childhood of increasingly abhorrent acts is spliced with her present as she counsels children with various emotional and behavioral problems As a psychologist, Julia recognizes thatit was tempting to confuse a child s evasion of the truth with a calculated piece of lying She s good at uncovering the motivations behind various children s destructive actions, and while this talent may spring from her own emotionally difficult past, the clarity Julia shows with her patients stops there Her insight is towards others not herself.The Unknown Bridesmaid, primarily a character study, is a stunning novel, and perhaps part of my admiration for the book comes in no small part to the fact that it plays into one of my pet theories those of us who give the most to strangers, give nothing to our families and those we are supposed to love It s a version of Mrs Jellyby s telescopic philanthropy Structured differently, let s say chronologically, the plot would not contain as much mystery, but the plot goes back and forth with the past and the present, so we see Julia as a damaged child and later as a well functioning adult But as Julia s present unfolds we begin to question just how well functioning she really is As for Julia s past, how should we judge the intentions of children when they don t understand their own impulses Julia very much remains an enigma to herself and her relatives, especially Elsa, a girl who once adored Julia and yet found herself the target of Julia s malicious spite Julia also remains a mystery to the reader partly due to the novel s clever structure and brilliant characterizations, but also due to the novel s wonderful ending which while deliberately anticlimactic brings only deeper questions involving the elusiveness of the truth and multiple versions of events Often, a title illuminates a book and that s certainly true here Julia, the central character of The Unknown Bridesmaid is, indeed unknown to her family, to us readers, and most of all, to herself.When we first meet her, Julia is invited to be a young bridesmaid at her beautiful cousin Iris s wedding Quickly, we see her in midlife Julia has grown to become a therapist and eventually, a magistrate who is responsible for evaluating girls We meet these girls, one after another, each troubled Often, a title illuminates a book and that s certainly true here Julia, the central character of The Unknown Bridesmaid is, indeed unknown to her family, to us readers, and most of all, to herself.When we first meet her, Julia is invited to be a young bridesmaid at her beautiful cousin Iris s wedding Quickly, we see her in midlife Julia has grown to become a therapist and eventually, a magistrate who is responsible for evaluating girls We meet these girls, one after another, each troubled, each on the precipice of veering off in the wrong direction in life Yet, as we soon discover, each of these girls provides a mirror of sorts to Julia herself She could have been any one of a number of women who had appeared before the bench she sat upon We learn that Julia has been the catalyst through which bad things have happened to Iris and her family But questions arise is Julia simply beating herself up or does she truly deserve blame Is she the victim or is she the resentful perpetrator who is consumed by envy and resentment Is she a trustworthy narrator or is she the ultimate unreliable narrator In short, what can we believe about Julia An expert in lies, Julia reflects, There would always be some twist, some wild piece of invention, which she hadn t thought of But again, are the lies a result of self protection or is Julia a borderline personality With every turn, with every chapter, we gain intimate glimpses of Julia, yet we re never entirely sure whether any of these glimpses are true.For readers who demand closure, they won t find it in this book The very point of the book is that Julia is unknown, and Margaret Forster keeps us mesmerized and on edge, right to the last sentence We might never know Julia, but she will be very hard to forget High 4 star