Twopence to Cross the Mersey
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The poignant account of a poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool during the 1930s, and the brilliant first volume of autobiography. A bestseller ever since it was published in February 1993. 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.
was verminous, and sent a note to say that we should buy a certain kind of ointment and rub it into their scalps. We had no money for ointment, however, so nothing was done. No priest of any denomination ever came to see us, though the school was a Church school and a Church of England minister came once or twice to visit Miss Sinford. We knew that we were too dirty and shabby to be welcome in a church, and, except for any religious instruction the children might have received in school, God,
eventually did. Next time I went to the library, I looked up the offending word. It really sounded very wicked indeed, and I was most impressed. Fiona came home from school one day, in tears. She said she had a pain in her back and chest. I felt her forehead. It was burning with heat. Helplessly, I looked at her and we were both terribly afraid. When Father came home from the library, I told him about Fiona. I had laid her on the bed and, to keep her warm, had covered her with what few odds
into jubilant conversation with each other at the idea of food, and gradually Father began to relax a little for the same reason, though his face looked pinched and white. He had spent hour upon hour in the employment exchange, being chivvied from one huge queue to another, until he had finally got himself registered for work as a clerk. He was not eligible for unemployment insurance as he had never contributed to that fund, and the employment exchange clerk just laughed when he asked when he
bitterly humorous inhabitants and share with them their suffering during the Depression years. I clutched my son’s confiding little hand in mine, as, for a second, I felt again the fear which had enveloped me that January day in 1931, when, at the age of twelve and a half, I arrived in Liverpool, not to pass through it as I had done before, but to live in it. It seemed to me that it was not my son’s hand which I held so tightly but the hand of my youngest sister, Avril, and that I could hear
fit for the journey, but she insisted coldly that she could manage and, after instructing me to look after baby Edward and Avril, she sent him to arrange for a taxi. I was truly relieved to see Mother beginning to take an interest in what was to become of us, but I did not dare to tell her that my throat was ominously sore and I feared that I was getting tonsilitis again, a disease which had always plagued me. On the advice of the taxi-driver, she alighted in an area of tall, narrow, Victorian