Best and Worst Literary Mothers

To celebrate this mother’s day, we thought we’d give a little twist to the traditional posts, and tell you about some of the best and worst literary mothers The Borough Press team have encountered!


Best mother: Orleanna Price, The Poisonwood Bible
I know I’m always banging on about The Poisonwood Bible, but I won’t stop until all of you have read it. The Prices’ parenting may be broadly questionable – though it’s Nathan who leads them all on a doomed mission to the Congo, his wife does go along with it – but by the middle of the novel it’s become clear that there’s nothing Orleanna wouldn’t do for her girls. I’d want her on my side in an uprising.

Worst mother: Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby I mean. Look how she talks to that poor child. ‘Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair?’ is at once dismissive, insulting and insufferably vain. And then, of course: ‘I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’. Daisy Buchanan is the Worst.


Best mother: Mrs Bott from Just William.
She is my hero in most ways and her progeny, Violet Elizabeth, is an inspiration to me, for sure.

Worst mother: Brenda from A Handful of Dust over Mrs Coulter, just.
She exclaims ‘Thank God!’ when she thinks stupid Beaver has died and finds out her son actually has. But who hasn’t put their sexy affair before their child, right?


Best Mother: Ma from Room
Trapped in a nightmare, Ma dedicates her life to creating a richly imaginative world for her son that shields him from the traumatic reality of their lives.

Worst mother: Mrs Wormwood from Matilda
The absolute WORST. She is shockingly uninterested — neglectful and obnoxious, she tells Matilda looks are more important than books. Thank god for Miss Honey!


Best mother: Connell’s mother Lorraine from Normal People by Sally Rooney Who else would get out of the car because she literally couldn’t stand to be in the same place as her son due to his poor treatment of women. Also she’s hardworking, hilarious and a hidden gem in this book:
Well I’ll tell you what I have to say about you, Lorraine says. I think you’re a disgrace. I’m ashamed of you … She opens the passenger door. Where are you going? he says. I’ll get the bus home.

Worst mother: Akin’s mother Moomi from Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Other than Akin being a massive pushover, liar and generally lacking in sense, his mother’s suggestion that he take a second wife is the catalyst for the whole thing! She is the worst and she has no shame, doesn’t care about how Yejide is affected by it all and genuinely thinks what she’s doing is right. In essence, she sucks.

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