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The Author: Edwina Currie, once an egg-on-face Tory minister, now the ousted ex-MP for Derbyshire South, bounces back as a peddler of Scouse sagas.

The book: She's Leaving Home (Little, Brown, pounds 16.99). It's 1963, and feisty Helen Majinsky - a Liverpool Jewish teenager of the same background as La Salmonella - comes to grips with a stifling clan, academic success, elusive boyfriends and (of course) the ascendant Fab Four. Family flashbacks sketch in Mersey history.

The Deal: Currie's brace of Commons whodunits revealed a healthy disrespect for pompous male ritual and a singular eye for the erotic possibilities of summer fruit. That raunchiness was just what you might expect from the only Tory minister with the sexual street cred to advise gays on their choice of lubricants. All that wrecked her prospects in the Party, natch. Facing defeat, she reportedly netted pounds 300,000 for a pair of Liverpool yarns.

The Goods: Currie says that "letters from readers" have persuaded her that "they like strong characters and strong stories, set against quite a deep background". That background makes She's Leaving Home more serious than scoffers might predict. Amid the soapy quarrels, she slips in slices of research about Liverpool's Jewish community, its stormy politics and its collapse as a port, and the plight of bright girls (guess who?) estranged by ambition from a strict home.

The Verdict: Stronger than your average saga, with enough Lite history and sociology to mean it can be read without wincing too much at the creaky plot. But Currie's devotion to the tried-and-tested formulae of period drama means that Beryl Bainbridge's position as Top Scouse scribe stands in no danger.

The Alternative: Literary Liverpool

1/ Beryl Bainbridge: Young Adolf Weirdest of her novels, with the grumpy Fuhrer-to-be on Upper Stanhope Street.

2/ Roger McGough, Adrien Henri, Brian Patten: The Mersey Sound Thirty years on, poetry's supergroup still rocks.

3/ John Lennon: A Spaniard in the Works & In His Own Write Lennon the writer bridges the gap between English whimsy and art-school Surrealism.

4/ Ian MacDonald: Revolution in the Head Erudite track-by-track chronicle of the Beatles in their place and time.

5/ George Melly: Owning Up Mersey memories and low life from jazz veteran.

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