Today, in the UK at least, it is Mothering Sunday. Historically a day where everyone in service got to go and visit their families. So, in honour of Mothering Sunday, I have put together a list of the five mothers in books that have stood out to me. When I was younger I devoured anything I could get my hands on to read. I appreciate now how much my mum had to find for me to read, how hard it must have been to try and sense check everything I, a book hungry scrap, was reading. Mum always enjoyed reading, and she taught me that books were a uniquely portable kind of magic and I still absolutely adore books and magic to this day (As evidenced by this entire Bookish Blog).
Mothers in books tend to fall into two categories: they are absent, or they are saints. In faiytales, you have the dead mother, the evil stepmother and the fairy godmother. Mothers are boxed up neatly to fit the narrative. I find in real life, it’s a little more complex than that. I asked my housemate which ones she could think of, and it quickly spiralled into a discussion about Austen and classics, but she reminded me of a few well written mums. In no particular order, I give you:
Five…Bookish Mums for Mothers Day
Noughts and Crosses
Meggie is a nought in a world full of crosses. She starts the novel working as a maid for a cross friend, but when she fails to hide the fact her employer is having an affair, she is fired. She has three children, and while they have nothing, she loves them all fiercely and is terrified they will nd up ingrained in the gang life which put her husband behind bars. Meggie has flaws, she has a temper and she is desperate for a break, but she has an open heart for her family, and will do whatever she can to protect them.
I’ve just realised how long it’s been since I read the Noughts and Crosses series. I had to google the name of the teenage female character, but I remembered Meggie. I shall be adding the series to my re-read pile!
The Hunger Games
While technically not a mother, Katniss at the start of the trilogy has been raising her younger sister Primrose in lieu of their emotionally absent mother. Katniss ensures there is food enough on the table, and that Prim is healthy, happy and loved, even as Katniss’s own relationship with her mother deteriorates. She refuses to let Prim put herself into the Reaping more than once, and when the time comes she chooses to sacrifice herself, and keeps fighting for Prim. She’s any indecisive pain in the ass in the first half of the second book, but Katniss is Prim’s mother-figure.
I actually debated whether to have Narcissa Malfoy, but really, when you think of mum’s in the HP universe, you think of Molly Weasley – THE stereotypical stay-at-home, excellent cook and overprotective mother of seven (and one adopted). My favourite thing about Molly Wealsey is that in the final battle, she is the one (SPOILER ALERT) who defeats Voldemort’s biggest ally – because the crazy woman threatened one of her children. I’ll be the first to admit that Molly is a quintessentially a 1950’s stay-at-home mum, but Molly seems to enjoy that, she relishes in being needed. Like, in Order of the Phoenix, she basically runs the home front with an iron fist and no-one would cross her. I would have liked to have seen more of what the Lupin’s parenting style would have been like with little Teddy if they’d been given the chance, or the Granger-Weasley children’s upbringing. Alas.
Sense and Sensibility
This, I think, is where most lists would include Marmee from Little Women, but I think Mrs Dashwood might be a better fit. Mary Dashwood is the widowed mother of three girls, with barely a pound to her own name, in the patriarchal men’s world of the Regency era. But she doesn’t do what Mrs Bennett does and force her daughters at wealthy suitors – she wants them (perhaps a romantic notion) to marry for love, whatever the circumstances might entail. Granted, Edward is a wealthy heir when he and Eleanor first meet, but she wants nothing more than for her girls to be happy. She is an emotional woman, and what she may lack in the sense of running an economical household is more to do with the fact she never needed to be economical – she’d have been from a wealthy family before her marriage, but in this world of men, Mrs Dashwood doesn’t try and do the “sensible thing” – she knows they can sort it out together, just her and her girls (with Eleanor’s sense balancing out Mary and Marianne’s Sensibilities).
The Wind Singer
The town the Wind Singer is based is a rich meritocracy where exams are all important, and the people at segregated into colours. You can only move up if the family has enough points together. Ira is a prophetess, and she is the mother of the twins that make up the bulk of the story. She raised them to see beyond the coloured sections, hating the forced rules. When her twins go missing, and her husband is taken for re-education, Ira and her youngest daughter get bumped down to Grey – the lowest of the low. Rather than keep her head down (it simply isn’t in her nature), Ira makes herself and her daughter multi-coloured dresses and walks through the town with her head held high. She stands by what she believes no matter what, and rather than just waiting for her children to return, she tries to do something herself. She’s pretty awesome.
Which mums in books do you think deserve a shoutout?