February 10th, 2012


Book Report By the Waters of Liverpool

The amazing Anneli, in addition to being beautiful, talented, and fun, also lends me good books. Yesterday she loaned me By the Waters of Liverpool the next book in Helen Forrester’s tale of her life in abject poverty between the World Wars (and a little into the second…). Quick, go count your blessings, and start with soap and hot water, two things Helen couldn’t get enough of. Then be thankful for food.

The bleakness of her existence is only relieved by the uniqueness of her voice. For example, on a day when she finally loses it and bursts out in screams and tears, her parents finally give her some attention, but even then, she writes, “The concern of both my parents was undoubted, but in a corner of my mind which was beginning to function it appeared to me that it was the fear of the scandal of mental illness, rather than concern for me as a person, which bothered them. Probably this was unfair, but such was the distrust built into me since infancy.” (p. 195)

Or, take this passage on the insidious inner effects that made the exterior privations feel worse: “I was so afraid of offending people, particularly Father and Mother, that I was finding it difficult to show any originality, to use my own judgment […] Now at aged twenty I wanted to strike out, find a new life for myself. To learn to act, not just react. I had been brain-washed too long into the idea that I lived by courtesy of other people […] I determined to change myself not only in appearance but in character, to assert myself, to be a whole woman in my own right.” (p. 214)

Fortunately, things finally take a turn for the better and she offers a glimpse into her personal happily ever after at the end of the book. Fascinating.