September 8, 2014

Helen Forrester Autobiographies

I don't really know where to start writing about these books.  A set of four used paperbacks.  Not much to look at really.  But the content is etched on my memory.

My mum is a prolific library user and a brilliant reader.  About ten years ago she withdrew a huge old omnibus of work.  She read right through the night, glued to each page.  700 odd pages later she passed the book on to me and encouraged me to read it.  I started on a quiet Friday night, and as she had done, I read through the night and all weekend until I'd finished.  I'd never read anything like it.

Helen Forrester, whose real name was June Bhatia, wrote four autobiographical books spanning from her early childhood up to her early twenties.  In the 1930's Helen (aged 12) along with her six brothers and sisters had been living a life of privilege and comfort in southern England when, with the onset of the depression, her father was made bankrupt.  Up until then her parents had enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle largely funded on credit and with nothing to fall back on and no means to pay their creditors they were thrown out on to the street with nothing more than the clothes they stood in.  With nowhere to go, all nine of them (including an eight day old newborn and their mother who was incredibly ill from childbirth) made their way to Liverpool where they would try to rebuild their lives.

But 1930's Liverpool was no longer the prosperous city that Helen's father remembered and the family faced continuous insurmountable challenges from the moment they arrived.  "The reality was that they found themselves caught in a trap of unrelenting poverty with its resultant cold, hunger, dire humiliation and despair." Source. 

In one interview June said that her biggest achievement in life was surviving her girlhood.  So appalling were the families circumstances and living conditions that June chose to write her autobiographies under a pseudonym so not to embarrass her family members or effect their future lives.  I have never read anything which will make you appreciate your life and what you have more.

It has taken me a whole year to collect all four books.  I've been scouring op shops for each of the paper backs and last month I finally completed the set which I would love to giveaway to a reader.

I just have one little request - I have added a book plate to the inside front cover of each book.  When you have finished reading the books please add your name and town to the book plate and then pass the books on to someone else to enjoy.  I'd love to see how far and wide these books will travel.

I've added my email address and Facebook page address at the bottom of each book plate as I would love to hear what you thought of the books and where you sent them on to.

There are two ways to enter:

1. Like, share and comment/tag the name of a friend who you would pass these books on to next if you win.  (You need to do all three for a valid entry).
2. Comment below with any other great book titles that you have enjoyed and recommend.

Do both for two entries :)

Entries close Thursday 18 September at 8.00pm and will be announced at the top of this blog post and on our Facebook page.  Entries only open to New Zealand residents (sorry international readers!)

Good luck x


  1. I really enjoyed the denniston rose series. It's about an old mining town on the rough west coast of New Zealand.

  2. I have just finished reading Paullina Simons The Bronze Horseman, The Bridge to Holy Cross and The Summer Garden which I loved and had many late, late nights reading :)