A Girl from Birkenhead by Trish Ollman

‘There are many memories that live in the brain of an old girl from Birkenhead.’

In this autobiography, published in 2016, Ms Ollman writes of growing up poor in Birkenhead in the UK.  She was the eldest of six children. At the age of sixteen, pregnant with her first child, Trish and Ian eloped to Scotland to marry.  By the time she was seventeen, Trish and Ian had two sons.  Ian and Trish emigrated to Australia when they were aged twenty-one, where they had two more children.

In 2016, when this book was published, Ian and Trish were still married.  They have since divorced.

It often takes courage to write about the past, especially when the past is full of challenges and difficulties.  Ms Ollman’s life has certainly been eventful, and she has overcome many difficulties with determination.  Numerous moves (between houses and between the UK and Australia a couple of times) combined with career changes and family issues makes for an interesting read.  Interesting but at times frustrating because grammatical and word choice issues (such as ‘it’s’ for ‘its’; ‘heal’ for heel’; ‘ridicules’ for ‘ridiculous’) kept dragging me out of the narrative.  I kept thinking how much better this book could have been with effective proof reading and editing.

Ms Ollman’s (first) autobiography is both a snapshot of the times in which she grew up and a deeply personal account of her life.  She’s since written and published a second autobiography: ‘Cry’ (described on her website as ‘The tears of A Girl From Birkenhead A ‘No-Holds’ barred version of the original ‘Girl from Birkenhead’.).  I have also read this and will review it shortly.

If you read this book, be prepared to experience a range of emotions.  If you can ignore the grammatical and word choice issues, there is a story which is sometimes heartbreakingly sad and sometimes wryly amusing.  I finished this book, and immediately picked up ‘Cry’.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith