Top Ten Tuesday: Best of Mother-Daughter Drama

This week’s TTT, hosted as always by The Broke and The Bookish, is about mothers (we have Mother’s Day in March, so this is slightly confusing and makes me think someone should have brought me a cup of tea in bed this morning). I’m really fascinated with relationships between mothers and daughters in literature; now that I am both the daughter of a mother and the mother of a daughter, it’s become something of an obsession. Here are 10 of the most interesting representations of that relationship I’ve read.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
I really loved this book, particularly for the mother; she’s a narcissistic hypochondriac and completely exhausting for her daughter. You definitely wouldn’t want her for a parent.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
I am essentially obsessed with this YA book about a teenage girl released from prison, having been convicted of the murder of a baby some years before. The relationship between Mary and her mother is absolutely fascinating. I reviewed the book here.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell 
Another of the annoying mother variety here. Celia is a total martyr and incredibly self-righteous, even by the standards of Victorian parents.

Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Several obsessions merge into one here; Ariel, Plath’s posthumously published collection of poems, contains aspects of her relationship with her daughter Frieda in You’re and Morning Song, and also Plath’s difficult relationship with her own mother in Medusa. You’re is one of my favourite poems.

Kindertransport by Diane Samuels
I taught this play a few years ago and found it quite traumatic. It’s about a young woman who discovers that her mother was a Jewish child, evacuated to England from Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport. There’s another mother-daughter relationship too, as the German girl is adopted by Lil, who is a big presence in the play too. It’s quite harrowing but really brilliant.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
More awful mothers here; this very low-key book (which I reviewed here) subtly hints at the wrongs committed against the eponymous character by her mother, who is a masterpiece of coldness. She scares me.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Yeah, yeah, star-cross’d lovers and all that; what really interests me in Romeo and Juliet these days is Lady Capulet. Married to (clearly horrible) Lord Capulet when she was just 13, you’d think she’d have a bit more sympathy for Juliet when everyone’s on at her to marry Paris, but no. She’s cold as ice towards the end of the play too.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A new mother-daughter masterpiece; this is about an isolated and peculiar woman whose mother is a big influence on her life, despite being mysteriously absent. Everything about this book is outstanding. I reviewed it here.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melissa Salisbury
I was let down by the romance element of this book, which dissuaded me from continuing with the series, but I was intrigued by the main character’s relationship with her grotesque mother, from whom she is due to inherit the macabre-sounding role of Sin Eater. I would have liked more of this and less love triangulation.

Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood by Hollie McNish
Wonderful poetry and honest prose, following McNish’s discovery that she’s pregnant up to the point that her daughter is a toddler. So relatable and brilliant.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It is possible that I have got carried away here and listed 11 books. Oh well. Mrs Bennet has to be on this list; historically, she’s been dismissed and ridiculed, much like she is by Mr Bennet in the book, who everyone loves. Reality check: Mr Bennet is a crap parent who only likes one of his five kids and isn’t even that nice to her. Mrs Bennet is in a state of permanent panic about being made homeless because of the patriarchy. So, who’s the real hero, hmm?

What are your favourite mother-daughter relationships in literature? While we’re on the subject, I wrote a blog about rubbish literary mothers a while back; it’s one of my favourite ever posts. Check it out if you want to read me ranting about why all mums in YA are absent.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Reading Wishlist A.K.A All My Stupid Ideas for Books Which Only I Would Read

This week’s TTT, hosted as alway by The Broke and The Bookish, concerns the features we’d like to see more of in books. Here’s what I demand from the authors of today:

European YA
I assume European writers outside of the UK write YA, but it doesn’t seem to be translated or widely available. I actually REALLY LOVE EUROPE (cries for five hours about stupid politics and how much everyone hates us now) and would love to read about teens in Germany, France, Spain and basically everywhere. Specifically, I want these to be by writers from those countries, not English people who once went to Barcelona on holiday. Aside from anything else, I’ve been to Barcelona 4 times so I could write that myself. I recently read a YA novel set in Sweden, by a Swedish writer and it made me greedy.

A book about Hole
I have Courtney Love’s Dirty Blonde, and have read some books that include mentions of Hole, but can’t find a book about them entirely. The closest I’ve come is Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth’s book, Girl in a Band, which contained about 60,000 unflattering references to Courtney that really weren’t necessary.

African history
Very specifically, I want a Penguin History of Africa. I have the equivalent for Latin America, which, yes, I realise involves far fewer countries, but I really want to know a lot about Africa and this would be a very helpful way for me to start. Penguin, are you listening?

Books set in Yorkshire
Because I live there and I like it when books mention places I know. One of Matt Haig’s books mentioned The Cockpit in Leeds, a sadly now-defunct music venue which I used to love, and this namecheck made me extremely happy.

More Very Specific Historical Periods
Specifically, I want a novel about the Suffragettes, some YA about colonialism, the American Civil War, Spain in the Early Modern period and a book about Picasso. I feel like all of this is very reasonable.

Supercool Feminist Heaven
I feel like it would be great if someone wrote a novel or a play about all the cool, dead feminists meeting up in a kind of feminist heaven and bitching about certain politicians and Piers Morgan. Hang on, this is actually a good idea. NOBODY STEAL IT.

Indie Music 2001-2006
Again, perhaps something I should just write myself, but I would very much like to read a book about the explosion of garage bands, particularly in New York, that began with The Strokes in 2001 with the release of Is This It. I would like a chapter on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and one on Interpol please, as well as a justification for why Black Rebel Motorcycle Club aren’t incredibly famous.

The Valois Kings
Another random historical thing here, but I studied the Valois Kings in A-level history and they were, to use academic terms, proper good. I would like to read some variation of the 800 page epic about them. Yes, I could have just put this in my hastily constructed point about Random Historical periods, but then how will I get this list to 10?

Weird Narrators
I have read a book with a dog as the narrator (The Last Family in England) and, in case I haven’t mentioned it a bazillion times yet, a porcupine (Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou). I have read a book in which a painting was a narrator (The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild). I would like more weird narrators, please. A cat, definitely. Maybe a shed or something. Clouds? Look, I don’t know – I’m not a writer. But you see where I’m going with this.

Time Travel That Makes Sense
Clearly this one is a joke as this will literally never happen.

What do you want to see more of in books? Perhaps you’ve written a YA novel about obscure French monarchs narrated by a wheelie bin and translated by Courtney Love which you’d like to send me a copy of. I am all ears.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ultimate Bookish Turn-Offs

This week’s TTT, hosted as always by The Broke and The Bookish, is the opposite of last week’s, when we talked about the factors that make us want to read a book; this week is all about the things that put us off.

Mainstream snobbery
Look, I won’t lie; I’m a book snob. Generally speaking, I am not going to read something if a) people who don’t like reading like it, b) it’s being advertised at the train station or c) you can buy it in the supermarket. I’m not proud of these things; they’re just true. So, no, I haven’t read Before I Go to Sleep, or The Da Vinci Code.

Teenage melodrama
I still read a fair bit of YA, and a decent amount of that is contemporary, but if the synopsis sounds anything like “insert girl name never dreamed of finding a boyfriend and then UNBELIEVABLY two boys fancy her at once,” it’s just a “no” from me.

Early modern period
I’m not sure if this has been a conscious choice, but I just don’t read anything set in the early modern period, so The Other Boleyn Girl and Wolf Hall have not been on my shelves and probably never will be. It’s odd, because I studied that period at A-level and enjoyed it, but I just don’t want to read about it.

Jodi Picoult
I read two Picoult books a long time ago and hated them with such a violent passion that I scared the neighbours. I don’t mind emotive books, but I don’t want to be emotionally manipulated by one.

“For fans of John Green/Rainbow Rowell”
I have read John Green books and experienced mixed feelings. I love Rainbow Rowell. But it really annoys me when novels are compared to them; it smells of a cash-in to me, like all those dystopian books that were meant to be “for fans of The Hunger Games.

PDAs on covers
I cannot abide all those awful covers with couples intwined around each other, or that just show legs; like, with a girl doing an annoying Kelly Kapowski-style foot pop (if you were a teenager in the ’90s, I know you know what I mean). Or a topless man. This rules out, as far as I can see, all romance and New Adult novels, which is fine with me.

“First in an exciting new series!” 
I am already involved in too many series, particularly for a person who can never remember what happened in the previous book (not helped when they’re released so bloody far apart). So, until I can call time on An Ember in the Ashes, Throne of Glass, Red Queen and Illuminae, I’m just not looking to get involved. It’s not you, it’s me. Okay, it’s kind of you.

Misery Memoirs
No, no, no. I will not read any of those books about someone’s horrible childhood. I sympathise with people who had a horrible childhood – really, I do – but I have no desire to read about it.

500+ pages
I do read really long books (The Sport of Kings was over 500 pages and Les Miserables is 1200 and that’s one of my favourites) but I have developed a stupid mental barrier against reading anything more than 500 pages, because it will take me more than 2 days and, for some reason, I don’t find that acceptable. It is stupid.

Middlemarch
Well, I’ve been meaning to read it for two years now and it hasn’t happened.

Do you share any of my virulent objections? Please let me know and leave your links in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want to Read a Book

This week’s TTT, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is about the factors which make us immediately want a book. I found this quite tricky (hence the fact that there are only 9); while I have particular favourite genres and authors whose work I look out for, there aren’t that many specific details that make me want a book. So here are my nine:

Space
My obsession with books set in space continues. If I find a book with an off-Earth location, I will immediately want it.

Published by Image
Since starting to read graphic novels last year, I have irresponsibly bought about a million of them, and a very large number of those are published by Image. I quickly lost interest in the conventional superhero narratives in mainstream comic stories, but I love nearly all of what I’ve read from Image’s back catalogue.

The Spanish Civil War
Have I mentioned my thing about the Spanish Civil War recently? I’ll read anything about it. Even 1000 page long non-fiction epics.

Cover comment by Margaret Atwood
I read Naomi Alderman’s The Power largely because Atwood was quoted on the cover. This logic will apply to pretty much anything. Oh, Maggie A likes this particular brand of felt tip/chocolate biscuit/deodorant? Give me 10.

Anything vaguely feminist
Fiction or non-fiction, I am all in for books about gender politics. This particularly applies to children’s books; my daughter is being politicised before she turns five.

Price under £5
If it’s so cheap, I’m basically wasting money by not buying it, right?

Africa
It is now my lifetime’s work to read novels set in every African country (which is actually quite tricky because, in some cases, there’s nothing that’s been translated into English).

A Baileys Prize nomination
I’m well on the way to reading everything that was longlisted this year and it has led me to some brilliant books. I also enjoy being able to lecture people from a position of knowledge, so this project is very worthwhile and not at all annoying for them.

A Brontë connection
I will basically read anything to do with the Brontë sisters. Their books, fiction books about them, non-fiction books about them: the lot.

What are the things that make you greedily reach for a new book? Do you share any of my weird obsessions? Let me know in the comments.