British born Helen Forrester has died at the age of 92. Forrester was best known for her autobiographical series which told the story of her impoverished childhood in Liverpool with gritty realism and humour. Her family went bankrupt during the Great Depression and her family was shocked to fall from a comfortable middle-class life to terrible poverty which left the children suffering from malnutrition. Forrester, the eldest daughter of seven children, was kept out of school to care for the youngest children and found solace in books from her local library.
Twopence to Cross the Mersey (M) describes those early years. “The poignant account of a poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool during the 1930s, and the brilliant first volume of autobiography. One of the most harrowing but uplifting books you will ever read. Anyone who has enjoyed the Frank McCourt books is going to be equally moved by this magnificent testimony to a little girl’s courage. When Helen Forrester’s father went bankrupt in 1930 she and her six siblings were forced from comfortable middle-class life in southern England to utmost poverty in the Depression-ridden North. The running of the household, in slum surroundings and with little food, and the care of the younger children all fell on twelve-year-old Helen. She writes about her experiences without self-pity but rather with a rich sense of humour which makes her account of these grim days heartwarmingly funny as well as shockingly moving.” publisher
Forrester came to Canada in the 1950’s and waited twenty years to begin her writing career. In addition to her autobiographical works, she also published works of fiction which featured strong resilient women who face great challenges and come out all the stronger. Her most recent novel, A Cuppa Tea and an Aspirin (M), was published in 2003. “A powerful new novel, heart-breaking but ultimately uplifting, from the author of the classic Twopence to Cross The Mersey. Life in a Liverpool tenement block during the Great Depression is a grim struggle for Martha Connelly and her poverty-stricken family, as every day renews the threat of homelessness, hunger and disease. Family warmth remains constant however, despite the misery and disquiet of the slum surroundings, and the indomitable neighbourhood puts up a relentless fight for survival. Helen Forrester’s poignant novel relays bleakness and hardships, but celebrates also the spirit of unified hope and the restorative values of the close-knit community.” publisher