Sunday 11 May 2014

Books and tea on a sunny Sunday morning...

It’s going to be a glorious day today, which is fitting for Mother’s Day.  The sun is out, the sky is blue, the birds are singing… what more could we ask for on this practically perfect day?
I’ve been waking up really early the past few days, so rather than just lying awake in bed, I’ve been getting up, making a cup of tea and reading.  While this has left me feeling quite tired, it has also enabled me to finish the book that is the selection for my next Friends’ book club meeting.  Although the meeting is more than a week away, the book is a library loan and it is due back soon.  The title is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, an Australian writer who has a number of bestselling novels under her belt.  In her latest novel, the action begins because of the Berlin Wall.  Meet Cecilia Fitzpatrick, the perfect wife and mother to her husband John-Paul and her three daughters.  When she goes up in the attic to retrieve a piece of the Berlin Wall from her earlier travels in Germany for her daughter, she comes across a letter addressed to her from her husband, to be opened after his death.  She is curious (who wouldn’t be?!), but when she mentions it to John-Paul later that day, he insists that it was written just after their first daughter was born, an embarrassingly sentimental outpouring at a time when he was drunk and highly emotional.  He asks her to throw it out.  She intends to do so, but when he brings it up later, her curiosity gets the better of her and she reads it.  And she realizes that once the truth is known, it can never be un-known.  We also meet Tess, as unlike Cecilia in character as chalk is to cheese.  Tess is also a wife and mother, and she runs a small advertising agency with her husband, Will, and her cousin and best friend, Felicity.  But Tess’ unremarkable life changes one evening with a single conversation.  And finally we meet Rachel, part-time receptionist at St Angela’s school who is still mourning the death of her daughter, Janie, 28 years later.  When she learns that her son and his family are moving to New York for two years and taking her grandson, Jacob, the frail sense of purpose she has salvaged in her life collapses.  These three independent stories are skillfully woven together to offer the reader an intimate exploration into the ways each person’s lives and choices affect everyone else.  It is a bit like the Butterfly Effect, where one action ripples out to affect so many other lives in ways we can’t even imagine.  Part murder mystery and part domestic drama, this novel presents a complex situation in a fairly realistic way, and explores how far mothers will go to protect their children’s sense of love and security.  Although it may be a bit too “soap-opera-ish” for some readers, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys novels about family secrets and family relationships.

And since it is Mother’s Day, I thought I should make a list of some titles that I have read that feature mothers as main characters, or where the relationships between mothers and other family members is explored.  I have to admit, I don’t read many of these types of books, but surely I can come up with a few titles!  Here goes:

Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson (read many years ago – the mother in this book would not win the “Mother-of-the-Year” award, if I remember correctly)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (although Topaz is Cassandra’s stepmother, I feel that she is a significant enough figure in the book to warrant inclusion on this list)
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Eva and Kevin… it gives me shivers just thinking about that relationship)
Tamarind Mem by Anita Rau Badami (told in two sections, one from the point of view of the daughter, one from the mother’s point of view – awesome book)
A Large Harmonium by Sue Sorensen (a hilarious look at motherhood by this Winnipeg writer)
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (an interesting novel and excellent book club choice)

And I will include a title that my sister-in-law recommended, but which I have not yet read:
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice (explores the relationship between two mothers and their children, as well as loss, grief and reconnection)

That’s all for this week.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome women out there!

Bye for now…

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