Publication Date: 14th July 2022
Oh my goodness! This book! I’m writing this review having just closed the book after tearing through it in about 4 hours flat.
I came to get my hands on a copy due to the keen eye of my bookish Two Fond Of Books partner in crime Clare @yearsofreading. Mothers Don’t by Katixa Agirre (translated from the Basque by Kristin Addis) is one of the lead titles of new indie publisher 3TimesRebel who are dedicated to publishing books by women in minority languages.
Mothers Don’t tells the stories of two women who are new mothers. The unnamed narrator (first person perspective) is a writer of a very successful true crime novel and is pregnant with her first child when she hears that a woman has murdered her twin babies, drowning them in the bathtub. This is a huge news story for a while, filled with public outrage but the narrator turns her attentions away from it until she is in labour herself and suddenly remembers in a moment of revelation that she knew the woman concerned, Jade (now Alice) briefly many years ago.
The narrator then decides to take a sabbatical from her job to write another novel, this time about the murders. She becomes slightly obsessed with Alice and the motivation behind the murder, using her savings to fund her writing project and putting her own baby into nursery care to get the job done. She also attends the trial of the Alice and begins to piece together what actually happened and weigh up her own feelings with the feelings of the public and the jury.
This book opened in such a way that it had me gripped from the first few pages! The opening scene is one where the nanny of the twins is returning home to find the dead bodies and Alice nonchalantly sitting in a chair. It is a roasting hot day and the atmosphere is dripping with tension. It’s a short chapter but is so powerful. It gave me real Leila Slimani, Lullaby vibes.
You know I’m a complete sucker for books about motherhood and this one digs deep into what it means to be a mother and how much of yourself as an individual you have to relinquish to become a ‘good mother’. It deals with post natal depression, post partum psychosis and infanticide so is understandably hard hitting and a difficult read in some places.
Aside from the main narrative I was equally impressed with the nuggets of information about subjects relating to motherhood which were expertly weaved in. I felt like I was learning something as I read. There were quotes about motherhood at the start of each chapter which had me going off on a Google mission! There were quotes about being a mother and information about the experience of being a mother by Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark and Sylvia Plath. Lessing said ‘there is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children’.
The section about the history of infanticide in various cultures over many many centuries was fascinating and not an info dump in anyway, it was seamlessly woven into the complete story and gave a solid background to the overall narrative. I do love background information when it’s well thought out, fully researched and well placed.
The obvious emotion of the topics discussed are upsetting and unsettling and you find yourself wondering what actually motivated Alice to do what she did. We as the reader are seeing things through the narrators eyes and are kept at arms length from the perpetrator so we can’t really make a fully rounded judgement. It’s not all neatly tied up in a bow either. It leaves you with thoughts to mull over and conclusions to draw for yourself.
I was completely blown away and this book will definitely be on my books of the year list. It will stay in my head for a long time yet.
Thank you to Anna Zanetti and 3TimesRebel for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda x @bookishchat