Writers and Their Mothers

© SpringerEdited by Dale Salwak
1st March
£19.50 | $34.99 | Hardcover | 978-3-319-68347-8

Twenty-two prominent novelists, poets, and literary critics share deeply personal meditations about the profound and frequently perplexing bond between writer and mother in this compelling book.

Among the distinguished contributors are Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Rita Dove, Andrew Motion, Margaret Drabble and Anthony Thwaite. Through detailed original essays and poems they bring to life the thoughts, work, loves, friendships, passions and, above all, the influence of their mothers upon their literary endeavors. 

All but two of the chapters are never-before-published and written exclusively for this collection, including the final piece of writing (on Walt Whitman) by Pulitzer Prize winner Kenneth Silverman before his passing in 2017.

The poignant contributions in this book are divided into biographical essays which include reflections on the mothers of Shakespeare, Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, Samuel Beckett, William Golding, Phillip Larkin, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, and extraordinarily insightful autobiographical essays including Reeve Lindbergh (on Anne Morrow Lindbergh), David Updike (on his father’s, John Updike, mother), Judy Carver (on her father’s, William Golding, mother), Martin Amis on his stepmother, and Ian McEwan on his mother.

Many of the contributors evoke the ideal with fond and loving memories: understanding, selfless, spiritual, tender, protective, reassuring and self-assured mothers who created environments favorable to the development of their children’s gifts. At the opposite end of the parenting spectrum, however, we also see tortured mothers who ignored, interfered with, smothered or abandoned their children. Their early years were times of traumatic loss, unhappily dominated by death and human frailty.

This elegantly assembled and presented collection emphasizes the undeniable impact mothers have on literature and will be a treasure to anyone interested in biography, literature and the powerful influence family relationships have on creativity.


“A fascinating collection of essays about the mothers of writers. The range of contributors Dale Salwak has assembled, including novelists, poets, and critics, is wide and distinguished, and the volume as a whole is both enjoyable and thought-provoking.” —Professor Zachary Leader, author of The Life of Kingsley Amis and The Life of Saul Bellow

Writers and their Mothers will appeal both to students and teachers of literature, and the wider market of creative writers and fans of the contributors. The importance of mothers in general – everybody has a mother, after all – makes this an interesting and significant book.” — Professor Adam Roberts, author of The Real Town Murders and Yellow Blue Tibia

“Dale Salwak's anthology of essays about writers and their mothers is nothing less than an inspired notion.” — Professor William Pritchard, Professor of English, Emeritus, Amherst College, USA


About the author
Dale Salwak is Professor of English Literature at Southern California’s Citrus College, USA. His publications include Living with a Writer (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Teaching Life: Letters from a Life in Literature (2008) and studies of Kingsley Amis, John Braine, A.J. Cronin, Philip Larkin, Barbara Pym, Carl Sandburg, Anne Tyler and John Wain. He is a recipient of Purdue University's Distinguished Alumni Award as well as a research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is also a frequent contributor to the (London) Times Higher Education magazine and the Times Educational Supplement.

For more information or to get in touch with the author please contact:
Rebecca Krahenbuhl – Communications Manager, Palgrave Macmillan
rebecca.krahenbuhl@palgrave.com, +44 020 7014 6634