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Forrester, Helen.

Toronto, Collins, 1988. 362pp. cloth, $24.95. ISBN 0-00-223241-3.

Reviewed by Barbara J. Graham

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

Helen Forrester has until recently been a relatively unknown Canadian writer; yet, in England her fiction is published and popular. Yes, Mama takes the reader to Liverpool during the late Victorian period and early twentieth century.

A woman's novel of the popular type, Yes, Mama presents interesting insights into the lot of women of various classes at that time. The reader will be appalled by the slum conditions of the nanny's family, the wife and child abuse prevalent at all levels of society, and the multi-layered prejudice and awkward family relationships. The search for love is unending and often hopeless. The view of Canada—the escape valve at the conclusion—is realistic. The immigrants realize life will hardly be idyllic, but the opportunity will be there to be independent and successful with some luck and hard work.

The lives of unattached women take on special significance as Alicia, the protagonist, observes her mother's servants, herself, her aunts, and even her mother (who is the victim of a loveless marriage, abuse and Alzheimer’s disease). The problems are oppressive and depressing. Despite all this, young women who read this novel will gain some real knowledge of what life was like for many just a century ago and will no doubt respect both Alicia and her nanny, Polly, who are survivors.

Barbara J. Graham, Board of Education for the City of London, London, Ont.
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