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The Motherlode: the best books for Mother’s Day

Craft and baking books are big this Mother’s Day, but if mum prefers to curl up with a new novel or bio, there are plenty of those too. Andrea Hanke reports.

When a car accident leaves Luke Warren in a coma, his estranged son Edward wants to switch off the life support and donate his father’s organs, against the wishes of Edward’s younger sister Cara. It’s classic Jodi Picoult and it’s out in plenty of time for Mother’s Day (Lone Wolf, A&U, April).

The ‘master of domestic suspense’, Harlan Coben, has written about the dark side of the American dream in Stay Close (Orion, April), while local author Jaye Ford is building a reputation for stories that ‘[tap] into women’s worst nightmares’. Her second novel Scared Yet? (Random House, March) follows an ordinary woman whose life is torn apart by a stalker.

For something a little lighter (and funnier), Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute (Macmillan, March) is the first novel from Australian nonfiction author Maggie Gruff (Mothers Behaving Badly, Hoax Cuisine). It introduces Scout Davis, freelance journalist by day and yarn bomber by night.

With a quirky title that is bound to draw comparisons with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Wendy Jones’ debut The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals (Pier 9, March) has attracted some excellent early reviews. It’s set in a small Welsh village in the 1920s and is full of charming characters, but also promises plenty of emotional heft.

Publisher A&U has high hopes for Australian author Fiona Higgins’ debut. The Mothers’ Group (April) follows six new mothers over the first year of their babies’ lives, offering a ‘compelling portrait of love, sex, marriage and parenting in an increasingly complicated world’ (see review, page 30).

The Irish romantics are always a good bet for Mother’s Day. Cathy Kelly’s The House on Willow Street (HarperCollins, March) weaves together the stories of four women with very complicated romantic histories, and a down-on-her-luck journalist returns to her home town in Sheila O’Flanagan’s Better Together (Headline, April).

In literary fiction, the following prize winners should feature highly on many mums’ reading lists. Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City and Other Stories (Corsair) has been re-released on the back of her Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, while the sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, called Bring up the Bodies (HarperCollins), is being published just in time in May.
Mantel is one of several high-profile authors heaping praise on Charlotte Rogan’s debut The Lifeboat (Virago, April). Set at the turn of the 20th century, the novel pieces together the events aboard an overcrowded lifeboat, to find out why some passengers survived but others did not. Mantel has described it as a novel that ‘seethes with layered ambiguity’. 

The following home-grown novels might also appeal to mums: Dinner at Rosie’s (Danielle Hawkins, A&U, May), described by the publisher as ‘reminiscent of Barbara Trapido’s Brother of the More Famous Jack’; The Memory Tree by Tess Evans (A&U, March), author of The Book of Lost Threads; Wind in the Wires by Joy Dettman (Macmillan, April), the fourth novel in her ‘Woody Creek’ series; Fiona McIntosh’s historical drama The Lavender Keeper (Michael Joseph, April); the follow-up to Joanne Fedler’s Secret Mothers’ Business, called The Reunion (A&U, May); Lucinda’s Whirlwind by Louise Limerick (Macmillan, May), author of Dying for Cake; and rural romances Morgan’s Run (Kary Lane, A&U, May) and The Road Home (Fiona Palmer, Michael Joseph, April).

Walker Books has several picture books with a Mother’s Day theme. My Mum is Beautiful ( … because she likes my pictures … because she laughs when I wear her slippers) is one of the standouts, with bright patterns and lots of little details (Jessica Spanyol, April). Also good for a giggle is My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh (Nick Sharratt, Walker Books, April), which celebrates family differences (Mum is crazy about spots, Dad
loves stripes).

The Messy Mother’s Day (Lucie Hillingsley, Lothian Children’s Books, April) is a rhyming tale in which the family dog gets up to a lot of mischief; a mother echidna encourages her baby to try new things in Mummy’s Kisses (Paula Clark & Lisa Stewart, Scholastic, April); and My Marvellous Mum is a special standalone title in the Aussie alphabet series from Susannah McFarlane and Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic, April, available in small and large format), which offers extra practice for the letter M.

Also look out for a paperback edition of Did My Mother Do That? (Sharon Holt & Brian Lovelock, Walker Books, April), which teaches children about different parenting approaches in the animal world. The watercolour illustrations are wonderfully dramatic.

Australia’s foremost food writer; an art patron and gardening enthusiast; and a beauty industry entrepreneur are the subjects of some fascinating new biographies and memoirs.

It’s estimated that half a million Australian kitchens contain a copy of The Cook’s Companion, so Penguin is understandably excited to be publishing Stephanie Alexander’s memoir, A Cook’s Life (Lantern, April). It’s billed as ‘a very personal account of one woman’s uncompromising dedication to good food, of how it shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation’.

Sunday’s Garden (Lesley Harding & Kendrah Morgan, Miegunyah, May) is a companion to 2010’s Sunday’s Kitchen, focussing on art patron Sunday Reed’s kitchen garden and surrounding parkland. It’s a beautiful hardback volume full of old snapshots, drawings and insights into Heide’s heydey.

Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty (Michele Fitoussi, HarperCollins, April) is one of the first books to be written on this rather extraordinary woman, who arrived in Australia in 1902 with no money and little English, sold jars of beauty cream from her luggage, and went on to found one of the world’s first cosmetic companies.

The following travel memoirs may appeal to mums with a yen for adventure. Taking a leaf out of one of her novels, romance author Eloisa James moved her family to Paris for a year and wrote about her experience in Paris in Love (HarperCollins, May).

Growing Old Outrageously (A&U, March) is the true story of two school friends, Australian theatre agent Hilary Linstead and UK journalist Elizabeth Davies, who met up after many years apart and embarked on a series of exotic adventures.
And for somewhere a little different, Jillian Schedneck writes about life in the UAE and her English-language classroom in Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights (Macmillan, March), a memoir that is being described as a cross between Nine Parts of Desire and Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Also look out for Beijing Tai Tai (Exisle, April), a collection of columns from Australian author Tania McCartney, who moved to Beijing with her husband and two children under five; and Ailsa Piper’s Sinning across Spain (Victory, April), in which Piper recounts her 1300-kilometre journey from Granada to Galicia in the footsteps of medieval believers.

For five years journalist Ben Robertson stayed at home with his two sons while his wife went to work. His story, Hear Me Roar: The True Story of a Stay-At-Home Dad (UQP, April), is likely to scare dads and amuse mums.

Love and Hunger (A&U, May) is a book of personal essays about preparing and sharing food from author and cookery blogger Charlotte Wood (The Children, Animal People). It includes some tasty recipes.

Finally, the following titles should win fans from their respective TV shows. Australian Story: Stories of Courage, Dedication and Love (Graham Bauer, ABC Books, May) features 10 popular stories from the past four years; Farmer Wants a Wife contestant Jo Fincham writes about fighting depression and finding love in Out of the Blue (A&U, May); and former Madison Avenue ad-woman Jane Mass describes herself as a real-life Peggy Olsen in her memoir Mad Women (HarperCollins, March).


This Mother’s Day it’s all about the sweet tooth. Australian Women’s Weekly embraces the retro trend with Baking Day (ACP Books, May), which features recipes for cream buns, neenish tarts and other old-fashioned treats. Jam Drops and Marble Cake (Murdoch, April) draws on 60 years of CWA’s award-winning recipes with nostalgic treats such as raspberry coconut slice and peach blossom cake. There’s also a retro feel to David Herbert’s Best-Ever Baking Recipes (Lantern, April), which is light on pictures but packed full of recipes for cakes, cookies, tarts, scones and slices. And don’t forget Margaret Fulton Baking (Hardie Grant, April), with more than 250 sweet and savoury treats.
Two MasterChef alumni are also playing it sweet. 2011 winner Kate Bracks focuses on desserts in The Sweet Life (Random House, April), while fellow contestant Merle Parrish shares her baking wisdom in Merle’s Kitchen (Ebury, March).

If that’s not enough to cause a cavity, there’s a dessert for (almost) every day of the year in Sally Wise’s Sweet! 260 Little Slices of Heaven (HarperCollins, April), and several giftyworthy box sets from Hinkler: Baking with Love, which comes with a heart-shaped recipe book, baking tray, measuring spoons and cupcake holders; and High Tea, which includes a recipe book, cupcake holders, tea strainer and cake stand.

Country cooking is also a popular choice with two new titles: Australian Women’s Weekly’s The Country Collection (ACP Books, April), which includes recipes for roasts, jams, slices and more; and Rosa’s Farm (Rosa Mitchell, Murdoch, April), which offers country fare with a Sicilian twist.

In At My Mother’s Knee (ACP Books, April), celebrities and their mums reminisce about their favourite recipes. Among the contributors are foodies Margaret Fulton and Poh Ling Yeow and regular celebrities Kerry-Anne Kennerley and the Bondi Vet. A portion of every sale goes to the charity Make-a-Wish.

For the Italian mamas, Guy Grossi shares his mother’s recipes—and a little family history—in Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen (Lantern, April), and Sarti chef Riccardo Momesso dedicates his cookbook to his Calabrian parents’ cooking (Antonio & Lucia: Recipes and Stories from my Australia-Calabrian Kitchen, Plum, April).

Finally, something for the crafty cook. Cathy Armstrong’s Coming Home (Lantern, May) combines recipes for comfort food (crumpets with orange blossom honey, coconut white pepper chai, macaroni cheese) with ‘cosy kitchen crafts’ such as patchwork potholders and egg cosies.

Loani Prior is famous for her Really Wild Tea Cosies, which have inspired some wonderful window displays and stitch’n’bitch events in local bookstores. Her follow-up is called How Tea Cosies Changed the World (Murdoch, April).
Craft fans should also take a look at Paper Bliss (HarperCollins, April), in which Skye Rogers does wonderful things with paper, including some very cute homemade stationery. Note: some booksellers may find the section on book sculptures confronting as it involves cutting up actual books.

Back to the classics
If new releases don’t take mum’s fancy, why not try one
of these smartly redesigned ‘modern classics’? 

Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black (May) tells the story of a group of female sales assistants working in a Sydney department store in the 1950s. It’s one of the first batch of Text Classics and its fans won’t let up until everyone has discovered it.

Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth is a gripping thriller that travels between an archaeological dig in modern-day France and the Middle Ages. It was first published in 2005 and will be back on bookshelves in May as one of Orion’s 20th anniversary white editions.

Carrie Tiffany’s 2005 debut novel Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (Picador, March) is the tongue-in-cheek story of a young seamstress who falls for a soil-taster aboard the Better Farming Train. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and has recently been re-published to celebrate Picador’s 40th anniversary.

From the shop floor
What are booksellers looking forward to this Mother’s Day?
Geraldine Blake, book buyer at Book Caffe in Swanbourne, WA, thinks mums might enjoy The Art Lover by Andromeda Romano-Lax (Murdoch, April), published as The Detour in the US— ‘a novel about the looting of Europe’s art treasures by the Nazi regime, the testing of one young man’s moral imperative and the resilience of the human spirit’.

Blake is also excited about two nonfiction titles: A Cook’s Life by Stephanie Alexander (Lantern, April)—‘who could resist reading about the fascinating life of the woman herself?’—and Margaret Olley by Barry Pearce (The Beagle Press, dist by Peribo, March): ‘a gorgeous big book featuring the art of the late, much loved Australian painter’.

Debbie Guertin, owner of Collins Griffith, NSW, is expecting strong sales for Women of the Land by Liz Harfull (A&U, April), a collection of ‘inspiring true stories of ordinary women in outback Australia’, and Purple Roads (A&U), a new rural romance from author Fleur McDonald. ‘Rural romance is really popular with our readers in the Riverina,’ says Guertin.

Guertin also highlights The Night before Mother’s Day by Australian comedy writer Doug MacLeod and cartoonist Judy Horacek (A&U, April), ‘a funny read for mums’, inspired by the poem ‘The Night before Christmas’.

Bestselling Mother’s Day titles over the past five years 
History suggests booksellers should stock up on Jodi Picoult and cookbooks…
2011: Sing You Home (Jodi Picoult, A&U)
2010: House Rules (Jodi Picoult, A&U)
2009: Handle with Care (Jodi Picoult, A&U)
2008: Breath (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
2007: Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult, A&U)

2011: Jamie’s 30-minute Meals (Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph)
2010: Our Family Table (Julie Goodwin, Ebury)
2009: Always Looking Up (Michael J Fox, Ebury)
2008: 4 Ingredients (Kim McCosker & Rachael Bermingham, 4 Ingredients)
2007: The Secret (Rhonda Byrne, S&S)



Category: Features