Tag Archives: mothers

*** A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith

In A Time of Love and Tartan, our friend Bertie‘s mother is moving out and his father quits his job, setting us up for a very different kind of story in the next installment, I think. (The overbearing mother’s theme was getting, well, a bit overbearing!) In the meantime, we are treated to the usual lovely observations of Bertie’s teacher trying to mediate peace with his difficult classmates, a gallery director who gets into trouble with his old English teacher, and a young woman who is tempted by a terribly inappropriate old flame. Or, and some Pygmies come for lunch, too.

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*** The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall

Bertie’s mom is back, sadly for him — but I predict he will grow into an even more thoughtful and strong young man as a result of her overbearing upbringing. So as he trudges from psychotherapy to Italian lessons to saxophone lessons, he is learning. We also have lots of adventures with the triplets and their au-pairs, and a new child appears on the scene so children all around.

Back to the mom: aren’t evil female characters enjoyable , and mothers to boot?

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** Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith

Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (in the 44 Scotland Street Series) brings us Bertie without his mother, who has been waylaid, improbably, during a stay in Dubai (hence the two-star rating — surely there would be a better way to make her disappear for a few months!) Freed from his obsessed mother, he can participate in all kinds of delightful activities, from eating ice cream to ditching his psychotherapy sessions, and displays his considerable charm and caring to his heretofore-remote grandmother. Assorted other characters also make an appearance. Lovely if you can compartmentalize that silly disappearance device.

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* Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere¬†skillfully unrolls the story of a family in a conservative suburb that simultaneously befriends a single mother with a mysterious past and another family who adopted an also mysteriously abandoned baby — so the story is about motherhood, chosen or not, biological or not.

And it’s certainly filled with surprises and twists, both in the life stories of the characters and their personalities. But what a melodrama, and what a cliche-laden story, with unpleasant consequences for the logic of the events. Would a young college student recognize “baby hunger” in an older woman? I think not. Would the police fail to find an abandoned baby in one of the city’s fire stations a couple of weeks after the fact? Of course not.

There are some well-observed mannerisms and interactions in the book, but they could not overcome the overdone affect and underdone logic.

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** The Secrets She Keeps By Michael Robotham

The Secrets She Keeps portrays two very pregnant women from different social classes, one aspiring to have the other’s life, which seems so perfect. The outcome will be complicated and tragic. The back stories seem needlessly over-full of drama, but the intrigue is captivating and clever and the characters are complex, down to the (wonderful) police psychologist.

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* How to Party With An Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

It’s too bad that beach weather is past us, because How To Party With An Infant may, barely, pass muster as a beach read. It tries to be a satire of rich mothers of San Francisco, obsessed with getting their darlings into the right (very expensive and organic) preschool and taking the right barre class, but only succeeded in making me wonder how the heroine, instead of comfortably sponging off her parents, cannot just get a job and stop whining about not owning a Hermes belt. I think we can all live without Hermes belts. Or organic preschools with 40K annual tuitions.

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*** The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

The Misfortune of Marion Palm stars the most elusive of heroines: the mother who abandons her children. She leaves them with their (helpless) father, so they are not altogether abandoned, but they keenly miss her and their very real sufferings provide ballast for an otherwise droll expose of New York private schools, the ins and out of small-scale embezzlement, and how a helpless father can transform himself into a stylish daddy-blogger. Funny, but occasionally deep and sad.

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