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Image credit: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (2020)

This debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020 and originally published under the name Girl in White Cotton, is about a tense mother-daughter relationship.

Antara is an artist, newly married and considering whether she wants to become a mother herself. Her decision is made harder by her own mother Tara, who had a wild youth; Tara abandoned her arranged marriage to join an ashram, took a hapless artist for a lover and rebelled against society’s expectations about what an Indian woman should be.

Now Tara is an old woman and in the early stages of dementia. Antara now finds herself looking after her mother, even though she feels her mother never looked after her.

Unsettling at times, this is a story about how the bonds and love between a mother and daughter survive even when their day-to-day relationship is full of conflict. 

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)

Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel is about many mothers, mother figures, daughters and daughter figures. Following 12 characters, the book traverses both time and place, going from Newcastle to Cornwall, from London to the US.

Among the people readers meet are Amma, a theatre director, and her daughter Yazz, and immigrant Bummi and her daughter Carole. Evaristo also explores other types of mother/daughter like relationships, including Hattie, a 93-year-old farmer, and her grandchild Morgan.

Girl, Woman, Other is both an intimate look at the complicated relationships between women, and a wider look at being a Black woman in society today. 

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989)

This novel focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families living in San Francisco. The mothers of the families start the club of the title, where they play mahjong while feasting on a variety of foods and telling stories of the lives they left behind in China.

Central to the book are three mothers and daughters; the daughters think their mothers’ advice is irrelevant to their modern lives, but the more they hear, the more they understand how much they’ve inherited of their mothers’ pasts.

Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes (1998)

All of the Walsh girls have an... interesting relationship with their mother, but Rachel's relationship with her mum in Rachel's Holiday is unforgettable - it's completely relatable as Mammy Walsh sees so much of herself in Rachel and can't help but judge her more harshly than her sisters because of this, but never fails to contain Marian's trademark humour and wit (we don't think we'll ever stop laughing every time we remember the 'Easter Egg' story!).

Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella (2002)

We've all done it. Worn a particularly ugly jumper because it was a gift, spent a holiday with some difficult neighbours or family friends, gone on a ill-advised date with one of her friends' sons... We've all been guilty of going along with something we didn't particularly want to in order to spare our mum's feelings. Well, in Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Becky Bloomwood does that very thing, but in typical Bloomwood style, it means planning two weddings on different sides of the world...

After You by Jojo Moyes (2015)

Lou Clarke and her mum begin this book on difficult terms, following the events of Me Before You. However, as the story develops, we see Josie's and Lou's relationship develop as Josie steps away from her identity as a mother and wife, and starts to assert herself as an individual. It serves as a lovely way for us to learn more about this beloved character from the first book.

Olivia's Luck by Catherine Alliott (2000)

When Livvy's husband leaves her and her daughter after 10 years of marriage, in a house that's falling down around them no less, Livvy must rise to the challenge that her life has become and carve out a life for her and her strong-willed daughter that she can be proud of. With a host of hilarious and believable characters, Olivia's Luck is a book all about a mother navigating the world around her, while protecting her daughter from it as much as she can.

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher (2010)

While not technically a mother-daughter relationship in the traditional sense, the relationship between Sophie and Molly (Sophie's best friend, boss and mother figure) is one that we just had to include in this list. Molly is the typical mother figure that we've all read about and wished for - supportive, warm, caring and witty - she even owns a teashop! Sophie and Molly's relationship is a beautiful one, and Molly's caring guidence allows Sophie to find her happy ending..

The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman (2005)

Sophie wasn't a mother. That is to say, she wasn't a mother until her childhood friend tragically dies and leaves her two daughters, Izzy and Bella, in Sophie's care. Finding herself a first-time mum to two greiving toddlers isn't easy, and Sophie's life changes in ways she never expected. However, as she discovers the realities of motherhood (the good, and the bad) Sophie's designer clothes and lifestyle that were once so important to her begin to mean less and less.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)

Now a completely addictive TV series, Big Little Lies contains a web of interesting relationships that we just can't get enough of, but of course we just had to include the relationship between Madeline and her teenage daughter Abigail. Abigail is at constant war with her mother, as she takes the side of her father (Madeline's ex-husband). Abigail sees herself as the black sheep in her mother's new family, and it makes for some fantasic reading.

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