Virago commissioning editors have different tastes, backgrounds, life experiences, ages and interests – and yet we realised recently that many of the books we’re publishing over the next year are about motherhood.
Our Chair Lennie Goodings suggested that all books are about mothers, deep down (‘too much or not enough!’) – and surely Freud would agree? – and then there’s the fact that I became a mother eighteen months ago, and have consumed a fair number of motherhood-related books since. There’s certainly been a surge in literature about motherhood over the last few years: I was not short on books to download in the middle of the night during the newborn weeks.
Whatever the reason for this thread running through Virago’s own publishing schedule, for this Mother’s Day we wanted to give you a taster of our forthcoming books about motherhood. These novels and memoirs show motherhood in many different incarnations – including surrogacy, infertility, chosen single motherhood and foster mothers – and with its huge variety of attendant emotions – love, ambivalence, longing, loss, devotion, intimacy, secrecy, aspiration, defiance and much more. We hope you will be tempted to read at least one and would love to hear from you.
‘I always knew my mother had a secret’ begins this incredible book, part family detective story and part social history, by Justine Cowan. A gripping memoir and revelatory investigation into the history of the Foundling Hospital and one girl who grew up in its care – the author’s own mother. Perfect for anyone who loved On Chapel Sands or East West Street, Cowan’s book delves into questions around what mothers try to pass on to their children – and also what they might hide.
Sigrid Nunez’s autobiographical first novel, based on the lives of her immigrant parents in post-war New York, explores the tangled nature of relationships between parents and children, and the portrait of her German mother, struggling to come to terms with her country’s past and her own present, is particularly fraught and brilliant.
A mother makes the ultimate gift to her daughter – she offers to be the surrogate for her own grandchild. But this act of altruism quickly spirals into a nail-biting rollercoaster of moral dilemmas, corrosive envy and long-buried secrets. Susan Spindler’s debut novel is an addictive read about some of the taboo sides of motherhood – perfect for anyone who loved Apple Tree Yard or Lullaby.
This graphic novel by acclaimed artist Una is set in the near future, in a recognizable world which is sleepwalking into totalitarianism. When disaster strikes, Eve runs away from her mother and sets out on her own to find a new way to live. It’s a story of hopeful futures and painful pasts which is also about the way each generation feels the need to measure themselves against their mothers and fathers – which feels more relevant with each passing day.
When your beloved daughter is lost in the fog of addiction, and you make off with her baby in order to save the day, can will power and a daring creative zeal carry you through? Examining the limits, disappointments and excesses of love in all its forms, Loved and Missed is a marvellously absorbing book, full of insight and compassion, by the author of My Judy Garland Life. Susie Boyt, a writer of mordant wit and emotional precision, delights even while she disturbs.
THE BOOK OF MOTHER
A prize-winning tour de force when it came out in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, aka ‘Maman’, smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard and loves too extravagantly; she also has violent mood swings and a flagrant disregard for personal boundaries. A gorgeous, critically acclaimed debut novel about a young woman coming of age with a dazzling yet damaged mother who lived and loved in extremes – in the bestselling tradition of Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle.
When Tiny gives birth to an owl baby, her daughter is immediately an outlier in a world full of humans – but Tiny is determined to allow her child to be herself. Inspired by the author Claire Oshetsky’s own experience of parenting non-conforming children, Chouette is a captivating story of fierce love.
Sometimes I wondered if you could love someone and prefer your life without them there, if you could prefer your life before they arrived. Sometimes, I wondered if both things could be true.
Kate Maxwell’s debut novel is a powerful and daring story about family secrets and maternal ambivalence. Stevie has always wanted a baby but when she finally has a son by a sperm donor, she begins to realise that the thing she most wanted is now the thing she most regrets – and contemplate what she might be willing to do to escape.
SOUNDINGS: A Journey with Whales
Doreen Cunningham’s astonishing memoir charts how she and her young son followed migrating grey whale mothers and calves from Mexico to the Arctic. It is also a journey to the heart of climate change and a story of reclaiming a life from sudden poverty and isolation.