Women writers who depict childrearing in a literary & non-fluffy way - any recs.?

(38 Posts)
FaddyPeony Fri 28-Jun-13 20:46:04

On my list so far I have:

Anne Enright
Rachel Cusk
Sarah Moss

...And now I am stumped, can't think of any more. Are there more?

FaddyPeony Fri 28-Jun-13 20:48:50

I should clarify that I'm interested primarily in fiction-writers right now, and by 'childrearing' I mean covering stuff like pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, the sleeplessness and relentlessness of the early years...basically, I'm looking for fiction that what it feels like to be a mother.

Not sure that publishers are particularly interested in gritty accounts of same...

watermint Fri 28-Jun-13 21:11:04

go to sleep by Helen Walsh was good - more about pnd in v early days though. I really enjoyed night waking by Sarah moss too.

FaddyPeony Fri 28-Jun-13 21:22:44

Thank you for the recommendation watermint - I'd never heard of Helen Walsh. Have just googled and Go to Sleep sounds right up my street.

User2605 Fri 28-Jun-13 22:04:39

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O' Farrell

FaddyPeony Fri 28-Jun-13 22:16:14

oh interesting, User - I've just started Instructions for a Heatwave by MOF and although I'm only a few pages in it has the feel of something that might hold authentic writing about parents/children.

blueshoes Fri 28-Jun-13 23:14:39

We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver. No doubt controversial ...

exexpat Sat 29-Jun-13 00:12:03

Barbara Kingsolver's latest, Flight Behaviour, isn't about child-rearing, but it features heavily, and in a very realistic way.

iheartdusty Sat 29-Jun-13 15:25:55

an older one - "They Knew Mr Knight" by Dorothy Whipple

written in the 1930s, the portrayal of the mother's insight into her teenage daughter, and her tenderness and recognition of the young woman's needs struck me as extraordinarily modern.

i know you said sleepless early years, but child rearing doesn't end there...

Have just finished Instructions for a Heatwave. It has strong themes of parental/child and sibling relationships and felt very real to me. Beautifully written although the story didn't grab me as fiercely as some of her other books.

tumbletumble Sat 29-Jun-13 15:47:16

Pregnancy - The L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks is brilliant (although now outdated re society's view of single mothers).

I have also enjoyed:
Other People's Children by Joanna Trollope (about older children)
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

Love the three listed in your OP, and Maggie O'Farrell as already mentioned.

exexpat Sat 29-Jun-13 17:35:59

The mention of the L-shaped Room reminded of another classic: Margaret Drabble's The Millstone.

exexpat Sat 29-Jun-13 17:39:22

Oh, and also The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (Australian classic, though set in the US).

FaddyPeony Sat 29-Jun-13 22:34:27

Thank you folks, some really interesting recs here. I am basically after reading material that truthfully depicts women's lives. I get so frustrated reading novels by important men sometimes...do you know what i mean,story's great, writing's great but there's not a wide enough spectrum of human existence. Am glad to get these recommendations.

Nivet Sat 29-Jun-13 22:34:38

How about this - The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher?

And another vote for The Hand That First Held Mine, MOF's description of the tiredness and confusion in the first few weeks after your first baby struck a chord with me, I think PFB was about 12 weeks when I read it.

NicknameTaken Tue 02-Jul-13 09:48:17

Ooh, exexpat, I read The Millstone recently and was surprised how much I liked it, although in many ways it's a period piece. And I thought Wife in the North was going to be fluffy, but it really is not - all about marital compromise and dealing with grief.

I'm currently reading The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva, which is marketed as chicklit but is darker than that - all cracking marriages and hints of postnatal psychosis. It focuses on a small social class, London yummy mummies, but it doesn't under-estimate the toll of raising small children.

Rebecca West, who's clearly a goddess- The Fountain Overflows

Hons and Rebels

The Blessing- Nancy Mitford

The Children's Book- A.S. Byatt (one of my favourites)

Jane Gardam, maybe, she does quite a bit of coming of age

motherinferior Tue 02-Jul-13 15:57:07

Sara Maitland is frequently very good - she writes movingly in one of her short stories about how horrifically tethered to the baby one feels through love. Celia Fremlin's 'The hours before dawn' also very good if you can get hold of it. Can't stand Cusk's self-indulgent 'I am the only sensitive soul ever to have a baybee' tone myself but if it fries your onion...AS Byatt's earlier 'Still life' also very good (I think she sort of lost the plot with her later books, in all honesty).

motherinferior Tue 02-Jul-13 15:58:56

Judy Astley is also surprisingly good, despite the pink packaging.

ArabellaBeaumaris Tue 02-Jul-13 16:10:51

Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge.

NicknameTaken Tue 02-Jul-13 16:24:04

Nearly forgot - Helen Simpson does wonderful short stories. Try Hey Yeah Right Get a Life. One story "Cafe Society" is a wonderful depiction of what it's like to meet a friend for coffee with a toddler in tow.

motherinferior Tue 02-Jul-13 16:31:45


FaddyPeony Tue 02-Jul-13 18:36:31

Love these recommendations, thank you all. Cheered to see so many!

Tbh I was so shellshocked after the birth of dd Cusk's book was exactly what I needed. There was a great bit about going to bed like you were preparing for battle, or as if you had left the front door wide open...going to sleep knowing you'd be woken an hour later.

Was reading about Jean Rhys. Apparently her DS died of pneumonia as a baby after being left near an open window. Awful.

Jean Rhys- marvellous woman.....if you get the chance, pick up a copy of 'Three Difficult Women' by David Plante. Read it in one sitting in an airport. More like a lecture you don't want to end.

wintersnight Tue 02-Jul-13 19:41:09

Helen Simpson is the one for me. Also I'm sure Lorrie Moore has written some good stuff about motherhood although the only one I can remember is about a baby with cancer which was pretty hard to deal with.

RoooneyMara Tue 02-Jul-13 19:45:02

Oh I was going to say Sarah Moss.

NicknameTaken Wed 03-Jul-13 10:03:39

Although on Helen Simpson, I'd start with her earlier stuff - her later ones (I'm thinking of In-Flight Entertainment) are less about motherhood and I remember them as very bleak.

Lomaamina Fri 05-Jul-13 20:50:19

I so agree quirrelquarrel I still reread the L-Shaped Room just to see how far things have moved in a generation. The two sequels were almost as good.

There are several of the above that I've also read and loved (Gardham Drabble and Whipple), but I wanted to add thanks for the recommendations of the Byatt quartet and the Weiner one too, which I've just ordered. My book stack was getting dangerously low so this is perfect timing for me (even though my own baby is a strapping 14-year-old grin)

FaddyPeony Sat 06-Jul-13 12:53:09

I just listened to a Helen Simpson story online (Guardian). Thank you for the recommendation, all - it was VERY GOOD. I may have had something in my eye by its close

Colyngbourne Sun 07-Jul-13 07:48:35

Maybe Julie Myerson?

SuffolkNWhat Sun 07-Jul-13 22:41:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

joanofarchitrave Wed 10-Jul-13 21:28:01

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard includes a fair bit of quite intense pieces on childrearing, along with lots of other stuff.

biological Wed 10-Jul-13 21:49:46

Another vote for Helen Simpson - Hey Yeah Right Get a Life.

MegBusset Wed 10-Jul-13 21:53:11

I came on to say The Hand That First Held Mine, mentioned already upthread.

ercolercol Mon 15-Jul-13 20:13:23

Helen Simpson - Hey Yeah Right Get a Life. Fantastic book. Really showed me before kids just how unfair the whole 'man goes to work, woman stays at home' thing is, and made me be very clear about child rearing / housework / cooking with dh before we had kids.

The bit where the mum sits at a client dinner and mindlessly repeats 'the wheels on the bus' - the most scary thing I have ever read in a book.

Lurleene Mon 15-Jul-13 20:20:07

I love all Ann Tyler's books, but Ladder of Years is my absolute favourite. It is all about a mother who walks away from her family on an impulse, and how she rediscovers herself.

Lurleene Mon 15-Jul-13 20:20:57

Sorry, Anne with an e Tyler.

LucyTheValiant Tue 16-Jul-13 13:46:50

Have you read The Birth of Love? It's not just about childrearing - set in three timezones, one historical, one present, one dystopian. But it's very good, and the 'present' (with a mother about to give birth to her second child) sounds like it's what you're looking for.

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