Writers and Their Mothers review – the legacy of maternal blessings

Made, marred, mollycoddled and inspired … Philip Larkin, Ian McEwan and Samuel Beckett are among the authors in this lively collection of affectionate and celebratory essays

Has there lived a writer who claimed never to have been influenced in the smallest part, for good or ill, by their mother? In this lively collection of essays, the legacy of maternal blessings (which they mostly describe) is thoughtfully and skilfully unpacked, either first-hand, via personal memoir, or second-hand, via biographical portrait. The keynote in nearly all of them is gratitude, for in the long perspective a writer must acknowledge a link between nurturing an offspring and nurturing a talent – both of them blood-deep, life-defining and mysterious.

In a wonderful piece Judy Carver considers the life of her grandmother Mildred, the mother of William Golding, and her “uncanny awareness” of people. Drawing on her father’s unpublished memoirs, Carver paints so detailed and ...