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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Metamorphosis by the Mersey
During the summer of 1983, avid readers of "Twopence to Cross the Mersey" and "Minerva's Stepchild" queued in the bookshops of Liverpool and Birkenhead, eager to purchase a copy of "By the Waters of Liverpool" signed by the author whose visit to North West England coincided with the publication of the paperback edition. If you have enjoyed earlier volumes of Helen...
Published on 2 Dec. 2001

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3.0 out of 5 stars By the Waters of Liverpool
Rather disappointing as it left the end hanging as I had read all the previous books by this author but felt she had exhausted Liverpool and the lives of the poor!
Published 20 months ago by Barli


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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Metamorphosis by the Mersey, 2 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
During the summer of 1983, avid readers of "Twopence to Cross the Mersey" and "Minerva's Stepchild" queued in the bookshops of Liverpool and Birkenhead, eager to purchase a copy of "By the Waters of Liverpool" signed by the author whose visit to North West England coincided with the publication of the paperback edition. If you have enjoyed earlier volumes of Helen Forrester's autobiography you will be just as impatient to buy this next installment as were readers from her native Wirral twenty years ago.
At the beginning of "By the Waters of Liverpool", we meet Helen as a 'gaunt smelly beanpole' of almost eighteen, earning a meagre ten shillings per week as a clerk for a charitable organization, and studying commercial subjects along with French and German at night school. The author takes us back to that dark, dank day when a bankrupt 'Father' and desperately ill 'Mother' arrived at Lime Street Station with their seven children-and nothing else. Readers familiar with the story will probably find this recapitulation far too long-winded, but it is essential if new readers are to understand how an earnest child of twelve developed into that 'gaunt smelly beanpole', a vile covering for a sensitive young woman. The theme of the book is Helen's metamorphosis, the gradual splitting of the 'beanpole' to reveal a being 'afloat on happiness' on the banks of the Mersey. It is a flood tide of stories, containing much more than can be put across in a review. Remember, though, that metamorphoses almost always involve searing pain. Throughout the book, you will see the 'gaunt smelly beanpole' tossed about like flotsam drifting on the Mersey, wrenched apart, damaged by the hardness, the sharpness of others, but sometimes treasured.
By the late thirties, the Forrester family has progressed from a series of bug-ridden attic rooms to a small rented house, one of innumerable dwellings owned by the Earl of Sefton. It is an unsanitary slum but, nonetheless, represents a step up a slippery social ladder. The gulf between Lord Sefton and the Forresters is obviously vast but the author is concerned with showing us a city divided not only by social status but also by mental attitude.
'Mother' and 'Father' remain determined to maintain their middle-class personae yet unscrupulously extort eleven shilling per week from Mary and Pat, a young working-class Irish couple, for the rent of one tiny room. Pat and Mary are Catholics, while the Forrester family is Anglican: members of the established Church that is often dubbed 'the Tory Party at prayer'. Liverpool is a city ripped apart by the enmity of Protestant for Catholic and Catholic for Protestant irrespective of whether the individuals or families concerned ever attend Mass or Divine Service but the religious divisions are far from straight cut. The complexity of the interrelation of class and religion is exposed when an Anglican deaconess, the down-to-earth Liverpudlian Minerva introduced in the last book, encourages Helen to prepare for Confirmation, first Communion-and Confession. The Forresters are not merely Anglican but as 'Mother' points out with a 'delicate, superior, crushing laugh', they are 'High Church' Anglican, or Anglo-Catholic. It had been quite acceptable for the infant Helen to attend 'Low Church' services in the company of the family's maid but to do so now would be out of the question! The sea of faith is held back by the same class boundaries that 'Mother' consistently refuses to cross in secular life. That an all-embracing middle-class image is considered so important when Helen is offered a hazy drug-induced gateway into prostitution, when the whole family hunger in cold ill-lit rooms while Mary and Pat eat hot nourishing Irish stew, illustrates the unyielding social structure of Britain on the brink of another European war.
"By the Waters of Liverpool" does not initiate the same degree of shock as "Twopence to Cross the Mersey", a book dominated by the stark fact that the Forresters were so poor that they could not afford a ferry ticket to Birkenhead in order to reach the Wirral seaside town of Hoylake where the author had been born. Nevertheless, I can guarantee you will experience a bruising jolt as Helen scrapes together not a mere two pennies but a whole pound, enough to pay for a week's holiday in Hoylake. There is all the fun of being one of 'three giggly gawky girls' exploring the villages of Wirral until Helen summons up the courage to knock on the door of her grandmother's house and hears 'the well-remembered step of one of [her] aunts....' This is the beginning of a poignant story that is continued later in the book, affecting not only Helen but 'Father' too.
Helen's venture across the Mersey is, perhaps, a causal factor in the complete mental breakdown she suffers, a break in the 'beanpole' from which she emerges in 'black taffeta...with tiny gold spots', ready to find fun and friendship at one of Liverpool's brash and breezy dancing schools...
Helen Forrester's prologue suggests she intended "By the Waters of Liverpool" to conclude an autobiographical series that is at once absorbing non-fiction and important primary source material for anyone studying the economic or social history of North West England. Readers who continue to be fascinated by the story will wish to follow Helen's progress in "Lime Street at Two" which really is the last instalment of this popular autobiography.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By the waters of liverpool, 5 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
Having read this biography as a young teenager it never fails to amaze me how accuratly the autor remembers her young self and all the teenage angst she endured.
The trials she came through are nothing short of a miracle, she endured a horrific early life but she never swaps her sense of humour for self pity.
As she vividly guides you through her past you can't help feel admiration for the strength of character she displayed, and for the honesty she descibes her own short comings.
My only negative criticism I have is that after "Lime Street At Two", there is no futher book in print to continue this remarkable life.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive record of what it is like to be very poor., 29 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
An inspiring, and simply graphic autobiographical account of courage and determination against the backdrop of the 1930's depression in Liverpool. Helen Forrester, fights against starvation, poverty, psychological and physical torment. Her story is told in 4 sequels, this book being the third. It will leave you with a compulsion to find out what happens next.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 23 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: By the Waters of Liverpool (Kindle Edition)
This is the third book in the series of Helen Forrester's autobiography. Equally as good as the first two.

Am I the only one to get confused by the last chapter? It rather spoiled the last book in this series, for me, because it was in fact, the end of her autobiography. When I read the fourth book, I already knew the ending. Why was it put at the end of the third book? We suddenly jumped more than ten years, with completely new characters. It was very confusing to read.

I would advice anyone wanting to read this, not to read the last chapter (March 1950), until you've finished Lime Street at Two.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping true story of life of the poor in Liverpool during the depression, 14 July 2014
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Helen Forrester definitely worth reading. Gripping true story of life of the poor in Liverpool during the depression.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Smashing read, 10 July 2014
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Could not put it down I did not want it to end.I have read Liverpool Miss now I want more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love her books, loved this one...., 8 Jun. 2014
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Great book, set in Liverpool and I know where the places are as am Liverpool born myself. One great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Touching, 3 April 2014
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a thoughtful portrayal of life in the 1930s. Skilfully written to maintain interest throughout. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys autobiography and social history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Waters of Liverpoool, 29 Jan. 2014
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Another fantastic read only one book of the series to go. What a great writer Helen Forrester is. I had never heard of her before starting this series of books, will definitely be recommending her to my friends. The time scale for this series is just slightly ahead of when I was born and growing up, but I also lived through the war and can relate to so much of what she has written dying to start on the final book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A mixture of tears and smiles., 12 Jan. 2014
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This was a lovely read, as all of Helen's books, you can relate to all the story from the start.-------Enjoy.
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By the Waters of Liverpool
By the Waters of Liverpool by Helen Forrester
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