In the late 1980s I worked at Reader’s Digest. I had published a few stories, but no books, so I was in awe of a colleague, Helen Harris, who had been featured with three stories in Faber’s Introduction 8 and published two novels. She was a real writer. That was the dream. ‘Conversion’ is the story of Norah Crown of Achilles Street, widowed with a daughter living on the other side of London, and her battle against the developers. Up and down the street tenants are being edged out and their flats done up and sold to incomers. The grocer’s is closed and a delicatessen opens in its place. ‘But it didn’t sell anything that Norah wanted to buy. It was full of foreign food and fancy stuff, nothing plain and wholesome like fish paste or Rich Teas.’ Harris writes with humour, sympathy and understanding about a subject that, if it was an issue in 1984, is an even more urgent one thirty-three years later.
(London Magazine, April/May 1984)