Book Reviews

Book Review: A Liverpool Girl by Elizabeth Morton

For those of us immersed in science fiction, the name Elizabeth Morton has ties to the Doctor Who universe. She’s currently married to Peter Davison, the fifth portrayer of the Doctor, with whom she has two sons, and is the stepmother to actress Georgia Tennant who portrayed the Doctor’s daughter, and is married to David Tennant, the tenth portrayer of the Doctor. When I saw Ms. Morton was a writer, I eagerly picked up one of her books. She’s not a writer in the science fiction genre, and I did enjoy her depiction of life as it was in the 1950s.

Babby is a young girl whose family is not well-off. Her father works on the docks in Liverpool and makes a little extra money playing music in the pubs near the docks. He is killed one day during a brawl in one of those pubs. Babby’s mother must figure out how to go it alone with three young children to care for. She doesn’t do a good job of it, unable to find a steady job and turning to alcohol to dull the pain. Babby falls in with the wrong crowd, and her mother fears for her future but is unable to do anything about it with all she’s trying to handle already. She ends up sending Babby away to live with the Nuns on a farm on an island off the coast.

The time away is good for Babby and she grows up into a beautiful young woman. She’s getting to the age where she’ll have to leave the island home and make her way in the world. Callum is about the same age as Babby and comes to the island to work for the summer. The two fall in love as two young people will when isolated together like this. While at home on a visit, Babby learns she is pregnant, and she can’t seem to find Callum. In this time, there weren’t very many options for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who finds herself pregnant and unmarried. Can Babby find a way to keep her child?

I felt that A Liverpool Girl could resonate with anyone anywhere who knows anything about the 1950’s social climate or wants to learn about it. Being adopted myself, I know all too well about the social mores of the time that led to the relinquishment of many babies by unmarried single mothers. I felt that Elizabeth Morton did a great job detailing this time period, where the women didn’t really have much of a choice. Babby knows what she wants to do, but doesn’t necessarily have the resources to do it. This was a time when moral judgments were made about a woman who found herself pregnant outside of marriage, and it was nearly impossible to find any kind of social support that didn’t apply morality to the issue at hand. In this case, it is the Roman Catholic church sitting in judgment of not just Babby, but her mother as well, and the situation the overall family finds themselves in.

Of course, as the story gets deeper, it’s not as cut-and-dried as one might think from the surface. Morton does a great job giving the reader a little bit to think about at a time, rather than overwhelming the story with too much information at one time. In many ways, it’s like looking at the situation through Babby’s eyes and in the way she understands the situation at each age. As she gets older, what seemed to be one thing to her changes as she’s given more information and the same is true of the reader.

I found A Liverpool Girl to be a well-paced, enjoyable slice of life. There’s no character that’s inherently bad and it gives the reader a happy ending without being sappy. There’s no need to be well-acquainted with life in Liverpool or England at the time. As I said, I think the theme is universal to the time period and serves as a reminder of just how far we’ve come.