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The Best Books About Motherhood

I love books that deal with all aspects of motherhood, but I particularly enjoy those that investigate its darker side – those times when everything goes wrong and the child makes life extremely difficult for the parents. Unfortunately I have run out of books with this theme and so would love to know if you have any recommendations for me.  

My favourite books about motherhood


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin is my favourite book about motherhood. It portrays a mother’s worst nightmare and discusses how responsible a parent is for their child’s actions. It is frighteningly realistic and I still think about it all the time.


The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

The Fifth Child shares many themes with We Need to Talk About Kevin, but the child is so evil it verges on fantasy. The Fifth Child contains a good discussion about whether or not it is fair to give one child more attention than their siblings, if they are having difficulties.

The Cuckoo Boy – Grant Gillespie

The Cuckoo Boy has many similarities to the above two books, but I especially admired the nature verus nurture debate.

The Nobodies Album – Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies Album is very different in structure to the other books here, but I admired its originality. It examines the relationship between a mother and her adult son and shows how parental responsibilty changes over time.

Night Waking

Night Waking – Sarah Moss 

An accurate and often comic insight into the difficulites of raising young children. I think all new mothers will recognise some of the scenes from this book.

Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson

Through the eyes of three different women this book shows how the relationship between a mother and child can be both powerful and fragile.

Beside the Sea – Veronique Olmi

A devastatingly sad book about what can happen when parenting becomes too much.

The Birth of Love – Joanna Kavenna

The Birth of Love shows how child birth has changed over time and gives a frightening prediction of how things might be in the future.


38 replies on “The Best Books About Motherhood”

I recommend Nina Bawden’s ‘The Birds in the Trees’ which was a contender for the recent Lost Booker.

I think The Fifth Child pushed back my desire to have kid about 5 years… It really scared the heck out of me.

The Birth of love sounds really interesting!

I think this is a great post. I haven’t read any of these books before though I do own We Need To Talk About Kevin. I’m adding Beside the Sea to my tbr list.

Great list! Totally agree about Kevin and Nobodies. I still think about Kevin all the time too. Will check out e others! Another I recommend is Cost by Roxana Robinson. Devastating, about the limits of what parents can do when kids are in trouble.

Melissa, I think Kevin is powerful enough to touch everyone in society – it is a very scary concept and I hope the film does it justice. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. 🙂

Love these recommendations! I have to admit, at this stage of the game with Greyson only 15 months old, I’m slightly terrified of the “child gone wrong” books like the first ones you mentioned. Night Waking, on the other hand, looks like something I’d fall right into. 😀

Thanks, Jackie!

Andi, I think I started my love for “child gone wrong” books when my son was about that age – I think reading about worst case scenarios made me feel better about any troubles I was having!! I hope you enjoy Night Waking though 🙂

I started We Need to Talk About Kevin when I wasn’t feeling good and wasn’t able to get past the first pages. I could tell it was going to be a powerful and thought-provoking read. I’ll have to check out these other recommendations, some of which I have heard about and a few that are new to me.

Kathleen, Yes, Kevin is a very dark book and I can see why some people find it too powerful. I hope you enjoy some of these other books, although a lot of them are just as dark 🙁

I have a recommendation, Jackie. The Mother’s Tale by Camilla Noli is a very dark and unsettling read, and the same author has a new book out called Broken Fences. I haven’t read the latter though.

Caroline, Thanks for the recommendation. I hadn’t heard of that one, but it does sound like my sort of thing. I’ve added it to my list 🙂

Jo, I hadn’t heard of this one either, but it claims it is perfect for fans of Sophie Hannah and I love her, so that is great news 🙂 Thanks.

We have hugely different reading tastes, I know, but I think Diary of a Provincial Lady is a brilliant portrayal of motherhood. But I can’t imagine any who likes Lionel Shriver’s writing also liking E.M. Delafield’s writing!

Simon, Our reading tastes are so far apart that your recommendation puts me right off reading it 🙁 Can you let me know which other books about motherhood you found just as terrible as Kevin?!! I’ll remember to recommend Delafield to anyone else I come across who hates Kevin 😉

Jenners, I’m pleased you would have picked a few of these books. I’ve read a few wonderful non-fiction books about motherhood, but still have a few nonfic recommendations to get through. I’m pleased that this post has added a few suggestions to my list. 🙂

Anja, Kevin was such an original book at the time of its publication. Many have tried to copy, but none have been as good. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it.

Loved Kevin and the Birth of Love and I just put up my review of Night Waking – I can’t say enough good things about that book at the moment. You have reminded me about the Nobodies Album – I will have to follow your link and see what you thought of it 🙂

The Fifth Child was brilliant and powerful novel of how someone who doesn’t fit society’s conventions of being “normal” and so is ostracised. And it really does show the bond between mother and child so well.

It’s a great book!

The Fifth Child was brilliant and powerful novel of how someone who doesn’t fit society’s conventions of being “normal” and so is ostracised. And it really does show the bond between mother and child so well.

It’s a great book!

You might like A Golden Age by Tahima Anam. It’s a tale of the extraordinary sacrifices a mother makes for her children, set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh war for independence. The writing was a bit too spare for me, but it’s been highly acclaimed.

@notarevolution, Thanks for the recommendation. I have similar problems with spare writing, but I do like the premise so I’ll see if my library has a copy.

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