Helen Forrester was the pen name of June Bhatia (née Huband) (6 June 1919 – 24 November 2011), who was an English author known for her books about her early childhood in Liverpool during the Great Depression, as well as several works of fiction.
Life and work
Helen Forrester was born June Huband in Hoylake, Cheshire on the Wirral Peninsula, the eldest of seven children of inept, socialite, middle-class parents who lived on credit. When her father was made bankrupt during the Great Depression, the family was thrown into poverty. Evicted from their comfortable home in an English market town and with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in, the large family took the train to Liverpool where they hoped to rebuild their lives. While Forrester's father searched unsuccessfully for work, the family were forced to live together in a single room. As the eldest child, the 12-year-old Helen was kept away from school to look after her six younger brothers and sisters. For the next few years the family were forced to rely on meagre handouts from the parish, and the kindness of strangers. At the age of 14 Forrester rebelled against her life of drudgery and her parents agreed to allow her to attend evening classes to make up for her missed years of education.
Throughout her teenage years, Forrester worked for a charitable organisation in Liverpool and Bootle, which provided background for her novels Liverpool Daisy, A Cuppa Tea and an Aspirin, and Three Women of Liverpool. After surviving the Blitzing of Liverpool and losing two consecutive fiancés to the Second World War she met and, in 1950, married Dr. Avadh Bhatia; her life with him in India provided background for Thursday's Child and The Moneylenders of Shahpur. The couple travelled widely, eventually settling in Edmonton, Canada, in 1955, where Dr. Bhatia became the director of the Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Alberta. He was a pioneer in electronic transport theory and the study of diffraction of light by ultrasonic waves.
The best-selling memoir of her childhood was Twopence to Cross the Mersey. It was later turned into a successful musical. Living in Alberta provided background for Forrester's novels The Latchkey Kid and The Lemon Tree. Yes Mama, which takes place mostly in late 19th- and early 20th-century Liverpool, also includes a section about Alberta. She died on 24 November 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta, aged 92.
- Twopence to Cross The Mersey (1974) ISBN 0-00-636168-4
- Liverpool Miss (originally published as Minerva's Stepchild) (1979) ISBN 0-00-636494-2
- By the Waters of Liverpool (1981) ISBN 0-00-636540-X
- Lime Street at Two (1985) ISBN 0-00-637000-4
- Liverpool Daisy (1979) ISBN 0-00-616901-5
- Three Women of Liverpool (1984) ISBN 0-00-617011-0
- The Latchkey Kid (1985) ISBN 0-00-617246-6
- Thursday's Child (1985) ISBN 0-00-617244-X
- The Moneylenders of Shahpur (1987) ISBN 0-00-617354-3
- Yes, Mama (1988) ISBN 0-00-617470-1
- The Lemon Tree (1990) ISBN 0-00-617748-4
- The Liverpool Basque (1993) ISBN 0-00-647334-2
- Mourning Doves (1996) ISBN 0-00-649874-4
- Madame Barbara (1999) ISBN 0-00-651348-4
- A Cuppa Tea and an Aspirin (2003) ISBN 0-00-715694-4
- "June BHATIA Obituary". Edmonton Journal. 2011-11-27. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
- Bradley, Kate (2 December 2011). "Helen Forrester obituary". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- Alison Flood (29 November 2011). "Helen Forrester, bestselling memoirist, dies aged 92 | Books | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
- Jamie Hall (30 November 2011). "Life & Times: Helen Forrester". The Edmonton Journal.
- "Helen Forrester". London: The Telegraph. 30 November 2011.
- Helen Forrester at Fantastic Fiction
- Helen Forrester discusses the musical adaptation of Twopence to Cross the Mersey at bbc.co.uk