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The Cruel Mother: A family ghost laid to rest [Kindle Edition]

Siân Busby
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

?In 1919 Siân Busby’s great-grandmother, Beth, gave birth to triplets. One of the babies died at birth and eleven days later she drowned the surviving twins in a bath of cold water. She was sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment at Broadmoor. The murder, and the deep sense of shame it generated, resounded through the lives of Beth’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In Siân’s case, ill-suppressed knowledge of the event manifested itself in nightmares and contributed towards a bout of postnatal depression. After the birth of her second son, she decided to investigate the story once and for all and lay to rest the ghosts which have haunted the family for 80 years…

Product Description


" imaginative consideration of the nature of love and forgiveness...compelling and vivid...offers the redemption of true understanding." -- The Times, June 26th, 2004

"...combines the macabre and the mundane with an admirable delicacy of touch. The Cruel Mother cannot fail to fascinate." -- Daily Telegraph, August 8th, 2004

"A fascinating piece of finely structured and immaculately researched [it] should become a classic of its kind." -- The Guardian, September 4th 2004

"Fascinating...compulsively readable..." -- Sunday Telegraph, July 11th, 2004

About the Author

Sian Busby is the author of the highly acclaimed A Wonderful Little Girl (Short Books). She is also a filmaker, scriptwriter and digital artist. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 552 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Short Books (7 Mar. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.ą r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BS8399M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #115,503 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cruel Mother 23 Mar. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an honest and heartbreaking account of a family tragedy, when the author discovered that her great-grandmother drowned her two infant daughters. It is a book about family secrets, of the life of women at the turn of the century, the struggle of raising a family in relative poverty, the spectre of post natal depression and the hidden world of infanticide and backstreet abortions. Sian Busby's great-grandmother Beth was a loving mother of three sons, who had lost her little girl Maisie shortly before becoming pregnant with triplet daughters. It was a bad birth and one daughter died - the midwife not even suspecting there was a third baby. What seems surprising in this age of tabloid headlines and internet judgements is the compassion and leniency shown women who killed their newborns and the understanding shown to their circumstances.

Sian Busby was a wonderful author, who died herself, much too young. Her bravery in exploring her own thoughts about motherhood and how her great-grandmother's secret affected her family is a really honest account and an important social history of working class women and their daily struggles. This is a very moving read and one I recommend highly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The past is a foregone conclusion." 3 Oct. 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Though the title might suggest it, this is not a misery memoir, but the story of one woman's search for the truth about what happened to her grandmother, and by extension, what happened to many women before we truly understood what the trauma of giving birth might sometimes entail.

A very short passage of time - perhaps of no more than twenty minutes duration - on Wednesday 27 August 1919, a few minutes before half-past five in the morning Beth Wood drowned the surviving two children she had recently given birth to - twin daughters - a third daughter had not survived the birth.

This very frail woman had haemorrhaged badly at the birth and the doctor had had to be sent for; she had been in the care of a midwife, and had previously given birth to four healthy children. However, her only daughter, Maisie, had died of Diptheria very recently. She had been told that she would have to have an operation to take care of the mess this latest birth had made of her reproductive organs. She was probably in a state of chronic mental and physical fatigue as well as frightened and confused.

There were worries throughout the country and in many areas there was political unrest and protests. Many men had returned from war to find there were no jobs, and therefore no means of feeding and clothing themselves and their families. Beth was a great worrier, and even though her husband had regular work, she was someone who constantly worried about the future.

Sian Busby tells this story very simply and without any literary embellishment, or much flair or flourish. It is a terrible indictment of the lack of understanding the medical and legal professions of the time had of puerperal insanity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a sad book which details in depth the facts surrounding the death of Beth's surviving twin daughters who she drowned. Beth already had 3 sons, her only daughter had died the year before and this terrible event appeared to come out of the blue.

This book is a good read, there is a lot of social history within the story including that of lace workers, horse traders, the effects of World War I as well as the fate of those mothers who killed their babies.

Sian Busby is Beth's Great Grandaughter and much of the story has been meticulously researched since although some of the stories had been handed down the generations, Sian's Grandfather refused to talk about Beth the shame and guilt still imprinted upon the family. An interesting but very sad story.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insight 4 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
Fantastic book, a real insight not just into infanticide but also into life in Britain during The Great War and World War One.
This book would appeal to all, although particularly to women and mothers. As a mother I have never quite been driven to infanticide but could relate to much of Beth's feelings and emotions. The author's research into pregnancy related medical conditions at the time is also facinating.
Very well written! Read it!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing family biography and social history 10 May 2013
By J Hutch
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book hard to put down. The author has thoroughly researched the story she heard whilst growing up about her great-grandmother who was found guilty of drowning her twin babies. She sets the incident within numerous contexts perhaps to explain and justify to herself and others how and why this could have happened. Not only is her family history engrossing, part of which reads like a novel, but I was also fascinated with the factual information about the prevailing social conditions and expectations, and the medical and legal knowledge and procedures. The author also links her own difficult experiences of new motherhood to those of her great-grandmother; I appreciate how frank she was about this as it was something I could relate to.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Touching & Heartbreaking. 15 July 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An incredible insight into the lives of wives and mothers at the turn of the last of the last century.

The book is a biography of the authors great-grandmother, Beth, whom she never knew, but had always heard stories and family legends about her.

I found this book enthralling on every page, as you read about Beth's life growing up, her family, how she endured pregnancy and birth in the 1900's and how she eventually came to do the terrible thing she did, that got her sent to Broadmoor.

I don't often give a book 5 star's, but this one is definately deserving of them! I couldn't put it down all the way through and actually shed a few tears towards the end.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Fails to meet its potential.
Whilst this is very well written, it still reads like a text book rather than a novel. As such I found it repetitive and far to padded out with conjecture. Read more
Published 12 days ago by D. J. Charnock
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating true story. Well researched.
Published 2 months ago by Milfordmaid
5.0 out of 5 stars Linking us to mothers in the past
This book is a mixture of autobiography, family history and social history - I think that the author melds all three together to produce an excellent and compelling read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really enjoyed this book and I could relate perfectly with what this lady went through
Published 8 months ago by Maxine Coulson
4.0 out of 5 stars Turned into a very interesting social history of the period ...
Turned into a very interesting social history of the period before and after world war 1 in north London.
Published 10 months ago by David Mooney
5.0 out of 5 stars moving
Moving, brilliantly written. A fantastic insight into maternity, motherhood and life over the last century, mixing a story and history together in a unique way.
Published 14 months ago by Miss V I Phillips
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant read
A good mixture of facts and real life events. Sian Busby shows a dispassionate view of her familiy's dark secret.
Published 14 months ago by Rosie Paterson
3.0 out of 5 stars The Cruel mother
I did not buy this book so have not the slightest idea whether I would like it or not, your mistake !!!
Published 16 months ago by Shirley Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriging story line.
Took quite a lot of perseverance to read at first, but amazed by facts and research in this book.
A real story which completely immersed me especially because I am a Midwife.
Published 17 months ago by Pam H
2.0 out of 5 stars Could not get into this book
Could not get interested in this book at all. Had to delete it from the kindle because I tried so many times to get into the story but was disappointed
Published 17 months ago by Lucille McDonald
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