Top critical review
A Skewed Perspective
on 16 May 2016
Finally after many years, I have read one of Helen Forrester's books, and ended up being not so disappointed as annoyed, at least at times.
I'll sum up first, by saying, it would seem a case of once a snob always a snob.
The young Helen, dragged out of a life of privilege, finds herself in impoverished inner city Liverpool. However, her parents are indeed so snobbish and elitist in attitude, that they simply cannot admit that they are - now - no different at all to those around them, and here we have the first rub - their pathetic attempts to maintain standards are purely their own standards and are applied thus - to the exclusion of their children. This results in the illogical and ridiculous situation of the parents looking down on the working class families around them, when in reality the Forresters are just the same as them, and at times probably worse due to the pathetic attempts to show they are 'better'. One way they did this was by filling the lounge with a ton of expensive furniture and fittings, all on HP which they cannot afford and of course, fall badly behind with the repayments This is despite them already being bankrupt and with the father remaining unemployed and with the mother working in various stores as a demonstrator of various household goods; a job which does not pay enough to ease the terrible situation at home. The repayments or the repercussions of non-payment then cripple the family leaving them without proper food, clothing, personal and household necessities; the father still drinks and both mother and father smoke.
The worst affected is young Helen, who not only has to go without, despite a rapidly maturing young girl, but as was often the case, as the eldest she was considered the unpaid help, and using entirely inadequate resources, has to shop, feed the family and clean the house as best she can, and this remains the case for her even after she starts work. The trouble here is, Helen, despite a mostly strained relationship with her mother, shows some of the same elitist characteristics and is as dismissive of many around her as her parents are. Not as bad, admittedly, but just like her mother in particular, she cannot see, as she goes through her daily life hungry, badly shod, often unclean and several times seriously ill, that she and her family are no better, and at times most probably worse off, then most of the working class families in her area.
But from the middle of the tale onwards, things do get a little easier for Helen and the rest of the Forresters. Things are still far from what they should be; but at least there's one less wolf at the door than there was.
Will I read the rest of Helen's own tale of her life in Liverpool? I don't know, maybe. But - there are many, many worthy tales of families in 1930s Liverpool, who did indeed pull together and did indeed make the best out of a bad situation, and these put Helen Forrester's tales into perspective. By that I mean Helen Forrester generalised with a sweeping dismissive swish of her hands, making out that 1930s Liverpool was something akin to the Victorian East End with a Jack the Ripper waiting around every corner - there wasn't.