On Motherhood and Sharing Books
In the lead-up to Mother’s Day, three Melbourne authors reflect on the books they’ve most enjoyed sharing with their mothers – and the reads they’ve loved sharing with their children, too.
My favourite author to share with my mum is Jane Austen, the first ‘grown up’ author I really loved. When I was in high school, Mum repeatedly urged me to read Pride and Prejudice and Emma – but I refused, just because I was in the stage of doing the opposite of whatever she said. When I succumbed a few years later, I realised I should have listened to her in the first place.
The first book I remember (willingly) sharing a passion for with mum was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, after we watched the BBC series together when I was in primary school.
Maybe I identified with the contrary Mary Lennox?
My thirteen-year-old son and I share a love of Jon Ronson and David Sedaris. I introduced him to the latter after I was so absorbed in When You Are Engulfed in Flames that I forgot to pick him up from school. He wanted to see what was so damned absorbing – and after I read him a few pages, he was hooked. (And even forgave me.) I’m looking forward to reading Diabetes with Owls together.
We’re also big fans of Judy Blume’s hilarious Fudge stories (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge), about a mischievous kid who good-naturedly charms his parents and drives his big brother crazy.
My mum is a massive Jodi Picoult fan – she loves the ‘what if’ nature of her novels, and the social and ethical questions they pose. I reckon she’d love Kylie Ladd’s Into My Arms, which I tore through on the weekend, keen to discover the fate of a lovestruck couple who are unexpectedly separated in a seriously disturbing way. I’ve already wrapped it for Mother’s Day.
Jo Case is the author of Boomer and Me: A Memoir of Motherhood, and Asperger’s (Hardie Grant).
My mum lives in Sydney, so it’s not a simple matter of just handing books back and forth. However I always pack a book or two when I fly up to visit her, not just for me to read on the plane, but things I want to share.
As a fifteen-year-old, Mum worked at David Jones, so I knew she’d adore reading Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black. I also passed on my copies of Anne Summers’ The Lost Mother and Ducks on the Pond. She’s currently reading my copy of Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread, which she’s also enjoying.
I recently bought her a biography of Harry Bellefonte, a man for whom Mum is still burning a candle. I might give that one a miss, as I don’t want to move in on my mum’s imaginary beau.
My parents still live in the house I grew up in (indeed, the house I was conceived in), and the place is like a time capsule of my youth. There’s even a little bookshelf still packed with all my childhood books.
My Dr Seuss collection has been preserved there, books that I love reading to my own kids, especially One Fish, Two Fish. I was given my copy back in kindergarten, a prize for some long forgotten pre-school achievement. It contains one of my favourite lines in all literature: ‘From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere’ – which pretty much sums up my life philosophy.
I recently dug out Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy and read it to my six-year-old son. I literally sobbed at the end, and could barely finish the last page. My son seemed bemused by my behaviour. Maybe dead pelicans just don’t resonate with kids today?
Monica Dux is the author of Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting) (MUP).
The first book I can remember my mother reading for me was a Little Golden Book, The Tawny Scrawny Lion. She has a resonant voice, and always delivered it as a type of song: ‘If I didn’t have to run, run, run for every single bite I get, I’d be fat as butter and sleek as satin.’ Carrot soup never seemed more attractive.
A few years later, while playing schools with a friend, I chanced upon my mother’s childhood volume of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. It looked like a grown-up book, and I opened it up and pretended to read it from the middle, until I realised I was no longer pretending. The game and my friend were soon forgotten; a book has been open ever since.
These days, my mother and I have Alice Munro in common. Whenever a new volume of stories appears, I buy a copy for each of us, praying that it will not be Munro’s last.
One of my own pleasures in motherhood is the picture books of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Donaldson began as a songwriter, and her picture books are rich with music. We read The Gruffalo to our first-born every night for three years, and I am sure it has had a fundamental effect on his worldview (it certainly has on mine).
My best friend from primary school, Katrina Germein, is now a children’s author; sharing her books with my children allows me to relive our shared childhood. Her My Dad Thinks He’s Funny is a hilarious compendium of lame puns that has colonised our household’s humour: ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘With my hands!’
Anna Goldsworthy is the author of Welcome to Your New Life (Black Inc.).
Jo Case, Monica Dux and Anna Goldsworthy will be talking about motherhood – the good, the bad and the ugly – at Readings Hawthorn next Wednesday 15 May at 6.30pm. To read more please see here.