5 lit­er­ary MOTHER FIG­URES

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - BOOKS - KE

1. Lit­tle Women by Louisa May Al­cott, 1868.

WHAT: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy’s life re­volves around “Marmee” – their fa­ther is at war. Meg moans it’s dread­ful to be poor, Jo pines for Pa, Beth is the pet, and baby Amy is in­jured that “some girls have lots of pretty things”. WHY: Mrs March not only raises four girls, she bus­ies her­self with char­ity. This cheery mother in­spires her girls to be bet­ter peo­ple. “The girls thought the un­fash­ion­able bon­net cov­ered the most splen­did woman in the world.”

2. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Mont­gomery, 1908.

WHAT: Or­phan Anne Shirley was sup­posed to have been the boy re­quested by adult brother and sis­ter Matthew and Mar­illa Cuth­bert to help on their farm. Matthew dotes on her while gruff Mar­illa is in­clined to send her back. WHY: Lucy Maud Mont­gomery’s de­pic­tion of an adop­tive mother is ac­tu­ally pos­i­tive. While Mar­illa has lit­tle pa­tience with Anne, her love shines through; she knows if Anne is sent away, it will be to a woman harder than she.

3. To the Light­house by Vir­ginia Woolf, 1927.

WHAT: Mr and Mrs Ram­say and their eight chil­dren are at their sum­mer home in the He­brides as the First World War cre­ates havoc, and in the fi­nale two of the now moth­er­less chil­dren re­turn to the Scot­tish is­land 10 years later. WHY: Vir­ginia Woolf’s Mrs Ram­say is mother to eight, yet painted as serene and calm. She dies at the be­gin­ning of part two, but is kept as the novel’s beat­ing heart. She held the fam­ily to­gether and lives on in the chil­dren’s mem­o­ries.

4. Mary Pop­pins by P. L. Travers, 1934.

WHAT: Born He­len Lyn­don Goff in Mary­bor­ough, Queens­land, Travers cre­ated gov­erness Pop­pins in London. There were eight books al­to­gether about the mag­i­cal nanny who sweeps into Cherry Tree Lane to care for the Banks chil­dren. WHY: The films are more fa­mous, but things were toned down for the screen: Mary Pop­pins was far kin­der than in the books. Travers adopted a baby boy from Ire­land. The child, Camil­lus, was a twin but she re­fused to take both.

5. Carol by Pa­tri­cia High­smith, 1952.

WHAT: High­smith based the story of Carol Aird, wealthy sub­ur­ban mother, and 19-year-old Therese Be­livet, New York sales as­sis­tant, on her own en­counter with a stun­ning blonde. The women be­come lovers. WHY: There are ma­ter­nal el­e­ments to the re­la­tion­ship, when Therese goes to Carol’s home, Carol tucks her into bed. Carol loses cus­tody of her daugh­ter, but High­smith leaves the way open for a re­union.

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