Five Books about Mothers and Daughters

Today it’s our online book group discussion with author Jo McMillan about her novel Motherland, a mother-daughter novel of socialism and coming of age. In light of this, we decided to pick five books about mothers and daughters – tougher than it sounds!

1. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

We’re not quite sure why we’ve chosen so many books with a bit of magic in them – but this is such a special book we didn’t want to leave it off. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple living on a farm in 1920’s Alaska (NB this is also the first of two books set in Alaska on this list – not deliberate!), drifting apart from one another. One day, as the snow falls, their spirits are lifted, and they set about making a snow child together. The next morning, they look outside to find that the snow child they created has disappeared – and there is a young girl, Faina, running in the woods with a fox. And so they take Faina in, coming quickly to see her as their own, especially the lonely Mabel. But all is not quite as it seems, and the ending gives a twist to the idea of the magical fairytale…

2. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Can you tell that we love His Dark Materials over here? We’re determined to get all three of the trilogy into these lists one way or another. So, not quite your usual mother-daughter set up, but it’s one that’s interesting enough to include here anyway. Our protagonist Lyra Belacqua is an orphan, living at Oxford’s Jordan College and supposedly under the care of her uncle, the mysterious Lord Asriel, who is rarely there. So when he returns to the college with the enigmatic Mrs. Coulter, who offers Lyra the attention she’s been craving, Lyra comes to see her as a mother figure – planting the seeds for a relationship which echos throughout the trilogy…

3. Chocolat by Joanne Harris 

A mother-daughter image that’s become iconic due to the film starring Juliette Binoche (and Jonny Depp, lest we forget), this delectable novel tells the story of mother and chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk, as they sweep into a small, very Catholic, town and enchant them all with their chocolate creations. However, it’s not just the chocolate that causes a stir… With hints of magic and a mother-daughter bond that’s been replicated through the ages, this is a gorgeous novel of prejudice, change and chocolate.

4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This is one of our all time favourites, and one which can be re-read over and over again. Bernadette is mother to Bee, a fifteen year old whose one request is to go to Antarctica, and wife to Elgin, whose TED talk is one of the highest ever viewed and is a Microsoft star employee. They live in Seattle where the supremely anxious Bernadette corresponds with her secret PA in India, mocks Bee’s classmates’ mothers and wages war over a hedge with her neighbours. Having aced her exams, Bee’s request to go to Antarctica is fulfilled – but then Bernadette goes missing. So, Elgin and Bee go looking for this award winning architect, adoring mother, and Bee’s best friend.

5. The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

We left this one until last as it’s not out until July, but we couldn’t resist including it as it’s – simply – brilliant. The mother and daughter in this novel are Yasmin and Ruby, who have travelled to Alaska to meet Matt, Yasmin’s husband and ten year old Ruby’s father, who’s been out there making a wildlife documentary. However, when they arrive at Fairbanks airport, they are met not by Matt, but by a policewoman who informs them that he has died in a tragic fire in the remote hamlet, Anaktue. Stubborn Yasmin refuses to believe it – and so, she and Ruby commandeer an Arctic lorry and set out across the bleak Alaskan wilds to find Matt. But – and here it gets tense – they are not alone. Another truck is following them through the darkness, and with no one else on the roads, they have to find Matt before they are found themselves. Yasmin and Ruby (who is, coincidentally, deaf) make a fierce mother and daughter team in this clever and compelling novel. Also, we can almost guarantee that once finishing, you’ll want to spend hours on the internet researching the issues it raises…

So, those are our favourite mother – daughter novels. Tweet us with your favourites that you think we’ve missed off (yes, we know we skipped Austen, for which we apologise!), @CBBookGroup.

Motherland by Jo McMillan will be published on July 2nd by John Murray Books.

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