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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 6 November 2005
This book isn't a patch on Helen's own story. I have also read all of her other fiction books, and this is fairly weak even compared to them. The central character isn't one that you warm too, which means that you don't really care what happens to her, unfortunately!
An average read, but there is much better out there. If you haven't read Helen Forrester before, try her four autobiographic books- they are truly excellent.
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on 28 June 2004
Having really enjoyed Helen's autobiographical books (2p to Cross the Mersey, Liverpool Miss,By the Waters of Liverpool, Limestreet at Two)I was really looking forward to this new novel but in the end I was quite disappointed. The main character lacks the warmth and appeal of Helen's own story and the plot struggles to get going for me. The central character starts in a care home as an elderly person and relays her life story of poverty and hardship during the second world war to a member of staff and so the story alternates between the two periods. It ends satisfactorily, but over all was not a patch on Helen's own story.
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Living in a court in one room in 1939, with nine kids and a husband who tries to get hired twice a day for the tides, Martha Connolly has no way to better her conditions. She buys old sheets and tears them into square rags to sell for cloths, and her few pence barely cover food. When she has no food she goes around the charities of Liverpool, hoping for a pot of soup to carry home and some bread. They have to meet rent and coal, and several families use one toilet. Martha has one child in a TB sanatorium and one boy away at sea, and keeps her daughter home from school to help hemming handkerchiefs and mind the youngest child.

Life was cold and tough and dirty and people did not wash, carrying vermin. There was never enough food and kids did almost unthinkable things to get treats. Boots had to be begged. With a large population of workers and more desperate men coming from Ireland all the time, labour was cheap.

Then the war came along and everyone's life changed. Liverpool was a prime target as a port, and was bombed for a solid week. Young people got work and money, but at a terrible cost.

Looking back over her life from a care home where she has been put after falling and hurting her hip, Martha bemoans the fact that the family got broken up and kids moved abroad for work, others just dropped her when they married up in the world. This is a sad tale and it makes us grateful for the better conditions we have today. I found it readable and very evocative of the hard times endured in many cities.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2014
This book is primarily set in the 1930s and 40s in the slums of Liverpool. The narrator of the book is Martha who is sat in a care home bed in the 1960s looking back on her life.
The bulk of the book centres around Martha's continuing efforts to put food on the table and keep the rent man at bay. The squalor, poverty, violence and hunger are all well, and frequently, described. Normally in books of this style, including other books by this author, the warmth of the people and the community pulling together is what lifts the book out of the misery and makes it enjoyable to read. There are flashes of community but the real warmth is missing from this book.
Martha is the central character. A mother of seven surviving children of varying ages. Unfortunately, I could not like Martha. She did show some compassion to her dying friend Mary Margaret, but in her usual daily life she was a hard and unforgiving woman. Her attitude towards her children was not one of love or care but hard and often violent. I am sure that this is representative of the women in this situation and a requirement for survival but it did mean that I felt unable to sympathise or relate to Martha.
There is very little plot in this book. The story progresses onwards through the unrelenting misery of life with very few key events to focus on. Maybe it was the author's intention to demonstrate the daily grind and struggle for food but it didn't make for an entertaining read.
I am an avid reader of non fiction and the occasional biography. Had this been a non fiction book with the details and facts of life being presented in that way, then I am sure that I would have found it interesting, informative and easy to sympathise with the people stuck in this daily grind. However, this was a fictional book which I read for entertainment and relaxation. When reading fiction I expect a good plot, good characters of whom I can relate to & like at least a couple and something to entertain me, be it action, emotion, humour etc This fictional book fell down greatly on most of the things I expect in a good read so I can truthfully say that I didn't enjoy it. The continuing depression left me feeling rather depressed and certainly did not provide me with the relaxation and entertainment that I want from a fictional book.
There is a glimmer of light in this book. As the book comes to an end we concentrate more on the 1960s version of Martha stuck in a restrictive care home. Here we finally have a few characters who begin to show the warmth and desire to help their fellow human beings that is missing from the rest of this book. Unfortunately, this is the book's climax and is over before it has really begun.
I cannot say that I enjoyed this book. I did finish it but wonder if I should have given up and gone to read something more entertaining instead!
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on 8 June 2013
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys family sagas, before and during the war years, I rate this author very highly.
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on 16 October 2014
This is a realistic and very well observed chronicle of the lives of the deprived in Liverpool throughout the 1930's. Squalor abounds and many can think of only the present; there being no future for them but, by hook or by crook, to put bread on the table.

Inspired by her faith, Martha struggles to overcome the squalor and yet, despite all the hardship, neighbours try to help each other and, for me, it was in the emergence of community under duress that the story is, ultimately, uplifting.
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on 12 January 2015
This is a truly magnificent book which I read in one day because I just couldn't put it down. It captivated me from the very first page. I would love to see this on film, it really is that good! The poverty and hardship that was rife back when this story is set shocked me. It's heartbreaking to realise that this story has elements of truth and much of what you read here did actually happen. A couple of reviews I read said that this story was depressing. I would say not. Yes it's sad in parts, but to my mind it is positive in that those peoples sheer strength got them through such a terrible life. An incredibly well written book with really strong characters. Loved it, just so sorry I've finished it! Will definitely read more of Helen Forresters work.
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on 20 April 2014
a very moving story. I am only glad there was at least,a happy ending. Having been born in 1950,I can readily appreciate a lot of the story. Having myself,lived under the inadequate society of the times. Having a younger brother with spina-biffida and watching all his woes and my mother and fathers efforts to look after him. Also with 4 other children. Their efforts were not in vain though,my brother grew that independence of spirit which saw him become a chronological,a fellow of the institute of welfare officers,chairman of the disabled drivers association. Married a cerebral palsy woman in a wheel chair,herself an Olympic gold and silver medallist,representing Britain in two games. Achieving 6 gold and 2 silver Two daughters,the eldest a teacher.How proud my brother must be,as I am of him. He is my benchmark in life,if he can,I can. I may have detracted from comment,but had to try to say that my understanding of this book is born of similar circumstance and pain,watching others try their best in adversity,I truly understand,though from a certain distance.A brilliant story,so moving,filled with love. Thank you.
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on 12 January 2013
A look at what life was like in the slums of Liverpool, how poor defenceless people had to fight for their survival
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on 23 January 2015
A Cuppa Tea and An Aspirin by Helen Forrester is not a book I'd recommend. By the title I expected to be a good read and as I've read many books by this Author, I was looking forward to reading it. I never got further than half way through it and the graphic description of the poor families in the story detailing consumption, poor sanitation, vermin, hungry children etc. etc. Take my advice, skip this one!
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