Getting the perfect Mother’s Day gift isn’t always easy. The first hurdle is remembering that the day is coming but you’ve already jumped that one by reading this article. Still, if you want to get something better than the last-minute chocolate and flowers you have to put in some thought in advance. If you agree with the saying “it’s the thought that counts” a book is just about the best gift you can get. If you’ve picked the right one, it shows that you know the person well and you’ve been thinking about them enough to get them a present that is personalized to their tastes.
I grew up in a house full of books. My Mum read to my sister and me most nights and we spent the school holidays visiting the houses of various dead authors we’d never heard of. My Dad used to swerve my Mum away any time we passed a bookshop knowing she’d wouldn’t be able to stop herself walking out with an armful. It’s safe to say, a book is a good gift from her point of view. That’s why the two of us sat down on a Sunday afternoon so that I could pick her brains for the top ten books to say I love you on Mother’s Day.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
The six Mitford sisters were known for their beauty and their incredibly eventful and different lives. Three became acclaimed writers. One, Diana, married Oswald Mosley, the interwar leader of the British Union of Fascists, and spent the war in prison. Another Unity, had a love affair with Hitler which was broken off at the outbreak of war. Jessica became a communist while Deborah went on to own one of the most stately homes in the country, Chatsworth. All these colorful characters and more are portrayed in Nancy Mitford’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Pursuit of Love and its sequel Love in a Cold Climate. They tell the story of an aristocratic family during the interwar years with the sisters’ love affairs straddling the great social and political events of the period. Wildly funny with wonderfully drawn, endlessly eccentric characters, this is the perfect gift for a Mum who loves a bit of aristocratic drama.
Anything by Agatha Christie
As a teenager, my Mum couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie. When I asked which books she had read, she replied that she had read them all. Christie’s quirky mysteries contrast with the gritty realism that is fashionable in crime drama today. The stories are puzzles to be solved with flamboyant characters and endearing tropes. I was immediately attracted to the colorful, pulp-fiction style covers. An Agatha Christie is the perfect gift for a Mum who likes a nostalgic mystery.
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
This autobiographical work tells the story of Laurie Lee’s childhood in the Slad Valley in the early twentieth century. The book is structured as a series of anecdotes written in a beautiful poetic language and remembered through the hazy lens of childhood. It is a joyful portrayal of rural life filled with wit, mischief, and magic. This book is special for my family because it takes place near where I live and many of the sites from the story are still intact in one form or another such as Lee’s favorite pub the Woolpack. Despite the fact, the story is very much rooted in place its themes are universal. I once met a Caribbean lady who told me Lee’s presentation of life in a village reminded her of her childhood in Barbados.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
By now, you may be noticing some themes in my Mum’s picks. She likes colorful characters and fanciful tales. This book has plenty of both. It tells the autobiographical story of animal loving Gerry whose family trades life in dreary suburban England for sunny if rustic Corfu. Lovers of the recent TV adaptation will find the book well worth a read since while the characters are the same (and equally hilarious), the stories are entirely different. This is the perfect gift for a Mum who is dreaming of warmer weather and would enjoy a lighthearted tale.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
This novel tells the story of Flora Poste, a plucky city girl who is taken in by her relatives the Starkadders and promptly rolls up her sleeves and starts whipping their dysfunctional farm estate into shape. This is a raucously funny book which is a deliberate parody of the earlier Thomas Hardy style bleak yet romanticised country novels. This is the perfect gift for a Mum who will appreciate the novel’s many literary allusions but who also likes a good laugh.
The Wind in the Willows
This is another nostalgia pick. My Mum loved reading this book to my sister and me as kids and hinted strongly that a beautifully illustrated vintage copy would not go amiss for her next birthday. This book was one of the first to feature talking animals as protagonists something which many contemporaries scoffed at. The enchanting story and language will appeal to a Mum for whom children’s book will always have a special place.
Love for Lydia by HE Bates
This is another book my Mum read as a teenager. She remembers particularly liking the young heroine Lydia who uses her charms to play men off each other. The story is told from the point of view of an apprentice at a newspaper who is entrusted with ‘educating’ seemingly naïve young Lydia in the ways of the world. Another good gift for a Mum who wants to be transported to a world of aristocrats and romance.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Ok, you’ve probably heard of this one. But we decided there was no way we couldn’t include it. It’s too good a story. Jane is an orphan who faces abusive relatives and the institutional cruelty of boarding school, who arrives at Thornfield Hall where she begins a romance with Mr. Rochester beneath the shadow of a madwoman in the attic. The drama, the enthralling first-person narrative and the depth of ideas that put this book far ahead of its time all make this a classic gift for a Mum.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Rachael Verinder inherits a large diamond, a legacy of her uncle, a British army officer who served in India. When the diamond is stolen a series of misadventures ensue. The story follows a series of twists and turns as Rachael seeks to discover the identity of the thief and get back the diamond. This novel is often seen as the first modern detective novel and like all good detective novels, it is a story intent on examining the complexities of characters and unearthing buried secrets. Its intricately woven plot will delight any mystery-loving Mum.
Brideshead Revisited follows the relationship between Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, an eccentric and flamboyant gay aristocrat whose joyful carefree outlook is weathered by alcoholism and life’s trouble. This novel closely juxtaposes laughter and tragedy and constructs a tale that spans years beginning and ending with Ryder’s wistful nostalgia for the sunny days of youth. My Mum and I once listened to the entire audiobook of Brideshead Revisited while we were both too ill to go out. Any story you can still enjoy while in the state we were in must be good (If that image doesn’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will!) A perfect gift for a Mum who will enjoy a beautifully written story of love and loss.
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