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5 Best mothers in literature

5 Best mothers in literature

Whether loving, cold or hilarious, some of the greatest characters in literature are mothers. Bestselling author Rosie Goodwin looks back on her favourite literary portrayals of motherhood. 

In my latest book, Mothering Sunday, we meet little Sunday Small who is abandoned on the steps of the workhouse as a baby. Meanwhile, on the other side of town a woman who would give anything to have a child of her very own pines for what she believes she can never have. They both have a long journey ahead of them before they find peace and contentment.


I enjoy portraying mothers who would do anything to protect their children and below are just a few examples of very different mothers from different authors. My favourites range from the classics to more modern day examples.


The Railway Children

by Edith Nesbit


When their father is taken away by two strangers one evening, the lives of Roberta, Peter and Phyliss are shattered. They and their mother are forced to move from their comfortable London home to a simple cottage in the country where their mother writes books to make ends meet.

This is such a lovely story of how the children adapt to their new way of life living by the railways and of how their mother continues to care and nurture them, sometimes to the point we could almost believe she is too good to be true! Oh, to be so patient! Has to be one of my favourite children’s classics.


The Dwelling Place

by Catherine Cookson


This has to be one of my absolute favourite books by one of my favourite authors!

Set in County Durham in the 1830s, Cissy Brody and her young siblings are evicted from their farm cottage when both of their parents die of cholera. Determined that she and the children will not enter the dreaded workhouse, young Cissy takes on the parental responsibility for them and moves them all to live in a small cave on the moors where they will face many hardships before finding a happy ending. I loved this book and have read it again and again.


Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott


Another classic story guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye.

In this book, the mother, Mrs March, is the glue that holds the family together through the Civil War as we follow the lives of Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, her daughters. Their father is away serving as a Chaplain in the war and having lost their fortune, their mother must use all her resources to keep the family together, which she does remarkably well.


Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen


Another classic guaranteed to please.

Sometimes garrulous, crass and materialistic, yet strangely likeable, Mrs Bennet steers her five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia towards suitable marriages. Nothing will stand in her way although sometimes her rather full-on approach does scare away suitable suitors. Sometimes touching and at other times hilarious, it never fails to make me smile.


The Black Velvet Gown

by Catherine Cookson


Set in Northern England in the 1830s, Riah Millican is left widowed with three young children to care for. When she takes the post of housekeeper to a reclusive former teacher who offers to educate her children, Riah thinks her troubles are over.

Her employer presents her with a black velvet gown that once belonged to his mother, but when Riah discovers the reason behind his kindness she quickly realises that she must face a battle of a different kind to keep her children safe.

Another gripping tale from Cookson that I never grow tired of.



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