7 October 2016 | Adult Fiction

Mothers and daughters – books and excursions

Little women

Mothers and daughters – this is a subject that has been extensively used in mediocre, sentimental movies and rather ordinary novels with family sagas but it is also the source of brilliant books, movies and plays.

I’m back from a lovely long weekend trip to Sydney with Miss 10 and my Mum. As Miss 10 broke her ankle during the first week of the holidays – collided with her big brother on her bike! –  we hired a wheelchair, which meant Miss 10 was treated like royalty everywhere we went.

We went to the Taronga Zoo, ate out, painted our nails, saw Aladdin (magical!), meandered through bookstores, shopped, went to mass at the cathedral, caught a ferry or two and had lunch with a lovely friend.

In honour of our three-generation girls’ weekend, I have looked up some books which cover at least two generations of women. I know I’m missing heaps of titles – let me know if I’ve missed any of your favourites!

  • Little women by Louise May Alcott – I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book, and I’m probably ready to read it again, then share it with Miss 10. Four sisters, guided by Marmee, going through many trials and tribulations of finding work, getting along with each other, falling in love, marrying, having children of their own against the background of the American Civil War – it sounds like a modern day soap opera but it’s so much more than this.
  • The women’s pages – Debra Adelaide – young women who have imagined different alternatives for themselves, who are missing adopted mothers, searching for the true story of their mother, giving up babies for adoption – there are many sensitively portrayed stories of mothers and daughters here.
  • The poisonwood bible – Barbara Kingsolver – this is such an amazing story of another mother with four daughters, starting a new life in the Congo. I’m ready to read this one again, too!
  • Finding Serendipity – Angelica Banks – a wonderful children’s novel, first in a trilogy, about a writer mother and her writer daughter and their adventures in literary worlds.
  • The convent – Maureen McCarthy – an adopted daughter, a biological mother looking for her adopted-out daughter, a grandmother filling in a few details in her letters – this story weaves in and out of the past and present with a dual narrative.
  • Hope Farm – Peggy Frew – an irresponsible mother who still deserves our empathy, a resilient daughter who eventually chooses a new life for herself – there are many different choices and paths in this book.
  • Mother and child (film) – I have only seen this once but it was powerful and evocative. Three different women, unknown to each other but connected by the end of the  film. Three daughters, with mothers and without mothers.

Our weekend away was not worthy of a novel because there weren’t any family secrets to keep a reader intrigued, there wasn’t any tension to sustain a whole narrative, and there weren’t any complex relationships to add to the plot. A beautiful Sydney setting was the only essential narrative tool. Miss 10 did cry out once in mock terror, in the middle of a city street as I was pushing her in her wheelchair, ‘Help, help, I’m being kidnapped!’ But as Mum pointed out, she looks too much like me for anyone to think she was being kidnapped so no suspenseful moments there! I think I’m happy to keep the intrigue and tension in my books but out of my life!

In conversation with Hanya Yanagihara



Wonderful opportunity to enjoy each other. Drama in real life isn’t needed but it is enjoyed in the world of books.

October 7, 2016 at 7:35 am


What a lovely escapade! We once did a high tea for my mum, me and my girl but no out of city excursions yet! I’m also thinking of The Paper House and The Strays as books which cover two generations of women.

October 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Karen Comer

    Yes, of course, Carolyn, those books are definitely wonderful for their topics of mothers and daughters. I enjoyed reading both of those books. A high tea sounds lovely.

    October 10, 2016 at 6:47 am

The Page Boy

Very funny post Karen – if Miss 10 was really kidnapped what would be the ransom – she’s worth at least a block of cheese!

October 14, 2016 at 12:13 pm

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