Mothers: A Love-Hate Relationship

August 1, 2014 | By Book Department

Mothers, we love them, but sometimes we cannot stand them.  Whether your own chère maman, mother-in-law, step-mother, or another chosen mother-figure in your life, maternal bonds hold people together, for better or for worse. Today, we celebrate motherhood, not for the number of children, but for the complexity behind these love-hate relationships with mothers and the profound literature that these impenetrable ties tend to inspire. 


Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine de Vigan (Bloomsbury, 2013)
As she grew Delphine watched her mother Lucile, a former child model from a Bohemian family, take a glamorous fall into despair. Convinced she had telepathic powers to control the Paris metro, Lucile was hospitalized and medicated. In this brilliant investigation into her own family history, Delphine de Vigan attempts to "write her mother”, filling in the gaps of memory and accounts from family friends to reconstruct a life.

Vipère au poing by Hervé Bazin (Le Livre de Poche, 1972)
First published in 1948, this book tells the ongoing struggle of Jean Rezeau and his brothers with their mother, a ruthless unloving woman. It is a cry of hatred and indignation, largely autobiographical, which granted Hervé Bazin a place among the Pantheon of great French authors.

Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary (New Directions Publishers, 1987)
Set to the backdrop of WWII, this is the story of Gary’s love for his mother, the center of his world and of the private wonderland they had built, “born out of a mother's murmur into a child's ear, a promise whispered at dawn of future triumphs and greatness, of justice and love”.

Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen (Archipelago Books, 2012)
Shortly after Albert Cohen left France for London to escape the Nazis, he received news of his mother’s death in Marseille. Unable to mourn her, he expressed his grief in writing. Achingly honest, intimate, and moving, this love song is a tribute to all mothers.


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