23rd March 2017

10 truly awesome mum figures in books

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There are worse ways to spend Mother’s Day than reading one of these books with a gin in the bath, says Caroline Corcoran. 

1. Bernadette Fox, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Technically not great since she abandons her daughter Bee to run away but read between the lines and there is a lot more to this novel (and to Bernadette) than that. Increasingly agoraphobic whilst also being outrageously hilarious, Bernadette is Mum 2017, nuanced, human, multi-faceted and adored by Bee all the more for it.

2. Molly Weasley, Harry Potter

Shephards a pack of red-headed children around the wizarding world – that must be one large family broomstick – and is the closest thing poor old Harry ever gets to a matriarch. “[Harry]’s not your son,” Sirius tells her. “He’s as good as,” replies Mrs. Weasley fiercely. We cried.

3. Val, Mobile Library

Sometimes it’s the non-biological mums that get us the most and this one is up there. After lonely Bobby encounters Rosa and her mum Val, the three become firm friends – only for the locals to cast doubt on the relationship between Bobby and divorcee Val. When Bobby’s beaten up by his dad, the three hop into the mobile library that Val cleans and head out on the run. Beautifully underplayed.

4. Miss Honey, Matilda

See above – there’s a particular beauty about the mum figures who take on children they didn’t give birth to but who really, really need them. Miss Honey is a classic, all gentle and kind and nurturing and the antithesis to Matilda’s biological mum. Excellently because this is a kids’ book and not real life, at the end, Miss Honey gets to adopt her.

5. Aibleen Clark, The Help

Another shout-out to the non-biological mums who are owning this list. Aibleen works as a maid and nanny for the Leefolts and is way more of a mum figure to her ‘special girl’ Mae Mobley than her own mother, who neglects and abuses her. One of the many ways in which Aibleen is awesome, FYI, so if you’ve not read it, grab a copy.

6. Hester, Scarlet Letter

While the rest of us may list our strongest motherhood moment as being that time we went to buggy fit on two hours sleep, Hester would go for the one that involved her being forced to wear a scarlet A for Adulteress on her dress after conceiving a child from an affair and fighting against a Puritan society to be allowed to keep her daughter Pearl. Bit of perspective there, isn’t there?

7. Franny, The Vacationers

Sling a load of New Yorkers into a summer-in-Majorca setting, add in an affair and you’ve got a juicy read right there but at the heart of the novel is Franny, the sparkly matriarch holding the whole messy lot of them together.

8. Mrs Bennett, Pride and Prejudice

A total social climber – the Sally Webster from Corrie of the classic literature world, if you will – Mrs Bennett is a woman obsessed with getting all of her daughters married off. One of literature’s original matriarchs and utterly hilarious, she had to be on the list.

9. Mrs Vogel, Man At The Helm

You may spot a theme here. We have a penchant for the type of book mum who refuses to pander to mum stereotypes. Introducing divorcee Mrs Vogel who drinks whisky, drives a van and stands firm in the face of disapproval from her judgemental neighbours. She’s the mum who we imagine The Bolter in Nancy Mitford might have been, if she’d been born a few decades later and erm, not bolted.

10. Mrs Frisby, Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH

If emojis and texts had been around at the time that we read Mrs Frisby at school, we’d have definitely texted our friends with the strong arm one a lot in year six. Mrs Frisby is a widowed mouse mum who is so determined to help her sick son that she turns into a total badass – slipping sleeping powder into a cat’s feeding dish and overcoming all of her fears. Mrs Frisby: ????????

@cgcorcoran @mushmums


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