Friday, September 20, 2019

Eight novels with monstrous mothers

Evelyn Toynton’s most recent novel is Inheritance.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight favorite books which "contain mothers who regard their children chiefly as a means to their own gratification, or as obstacles to that gratification, without any concern for those children’s happiness." One title on the list:
Sigrid Nunez, A Feather on the Breath of God

It might be too harsh to call the German war bride in Sigrid Nunez’s deeply humane autobiographical novel an out-and-out monster, since her bitter disappointment with life may account for her failure to show her children the love they hunger for. Nor does Nunez present her as monstrous; she seems to feel more sympathy for her than this reader at least could muster. Still…”The everlasting struggle against the soiled collar and scuff-marked floor brought on true despair. In that struggle, as every housewife knows, children the worst enemy. Her big cleaning days were the darkest days of my childhood. She booted us out of one room after another, her mood growing steadily meaner.” Above all, though, it is her frequently voiced contempt for the sad, silent Chinese man she married, her lack of restraint about expressing that contempt to her daughters, that is hard to forgive. Again, I am talking about myself here. Clearly, Nunez herself has long since forgiven her. All the self-pity, the indignation, with which another writer might have imbued this story is wholly absent.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue