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The Independent Culture
Shadow Baby

Read by Phyllida Law

Chivers, c 16 hrs, pounds 16.99, mail-order 0800 136919

MARGARET FORSTER has an extraordinary talent for handling an illuminating deeply sensitive issues of family life. is a superbly constructed cross-cut tale of parallel lives, and it is well-worth listening to it in this unabridged version. Two girls are adopted as babies, one at the end of the last century, one in the 1950s. Both search, when they are old enough, for the mothers who abandoned them. They find very different receptions - not just because of social changes but because of the characters and experiences of the "real" mothers they belatedly discover. Forster brilliantly conveys the contrasting times, both in attitudes to women and the options on offer for girls who find themselves pregnant outside wedlock. She also achieves a totally unexpected twist which knits together all the story's elements. The book's only weakness is the girls' absence of interest in their fathers. Phyllida Law's reading is a triumph of sensitivity.