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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid novel of epic proportion and an all time classic
I just loved the humanity and the pathos in this fascinating read. It explores the dichotomy and ambiguity of a mother's relationship to her child (unconditional love teamed with the restriction on freedom, economic drain and resentment over a child's lack of appreciation for its own parents along with guilt, feelings of inadequacy and occasionally outright hostility)...
Published on 3 April 2004 by Ms. A. L. Woodward

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bringing characters to life
In this book, Marilyn French does, just as she had in Woman's room. She creates characters which every woman knows, loves and sometimes hates but can always relate to. Telling the story of three generations of woman in a family, where times and attitudes change dramatically. In true French style, there is no real plot or mystery, no out and out 'good' or 'bad' characters,...
Published on 4 Jan 2002


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid novel of epic proportion and an all time classic, 3 April 2004
By 
Ms. A. L. Woodward (Huddersfield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Hardcover)
I just loved the humanity and the pathos in this fascinating read. It explores the dichotomy and ambiguity of a mother's relationship to her child (unconditional love teamed with the restriction on freedom, economic drain and resentment over a child's lack of appreciation for its own parents along with guilt, feelings of inadequacy and occasionally outright hostility). Each mother tries to give her children what she never had but manages in the process to starve her child of other things that were available to her but completely taken for granted.
We first meet Isabella (later Belle) as a child and follow her turbulent early life before settling down with her husband and having her own daughters (including Anastasia who's viewpoint this book is taken from) and tries to give them a 'better' life. Anastasia is a "difficult" child, very bright, prone to asking questions and incredibly bloody-minded. Her mother has high hopes for her but Anastasia sucumbs to a teenage romance and in turn has her own kids, deciding she wants to be less distant with them than her mother was and give them a more emotionally supportive upbringing.
Anastasia starts out as a poverty stricken housewife but begins to take an interest in photography (an expensive hobby but she manages to sell her cute children photos - withholding the petulant and uglier pictures - so she can afford to buy her own film and developing materials). Her formerly fun-loving musician husband becomes an estate agent and as his values change he finds he is increasingly irritated by Anastasia's "slovenliness" and inability to cook or dress as an estate agents' trophy wife should dress and their marriage inevitably collapses.
Eventually Anastasia, now a professional photographer going on assignments all over the world, has the life her mother hoped for but how does her absence affect the emotional development of her children?
It is a fascinating insight into how life changes from the desperate poverty of Poland to middle class suburban America yet the same problems and issues seem to reappear. Its an addictive account of every young womans' hopes and fears and how motherhood changes their lives, how the roles of the fathers vary and how there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a kid without a chip on its shoulder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book of my life, 2 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Mass Market Paperback)
This book was as good as anything I have read. Even though it was five years ago I read it it is still stuck in my memory. A piece of art in the feministic writing.
I .de clerq
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Errors of the Mothers, 27 Aug 2013
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Mass Market Paperback)
Marilyn French's third novel is a family saga in which 'the errors of the mothers are visited upon their children even unto the third and fourth generation' (to paraphrase the Old Testament). Frances is the first mother, a Polish immigrant (in which case, wouldn't her name actually be Franziska?) who flees poverty in her own land, comes to New York at the end of the 19th century, works as a servant and then marries Michael Brez, a prosperous tailor. But Michael turns out to be a drunkard who dies of alcoholic poisoning, leaving Frances and her four children penniless. The three younger children grow up in an orphanage (though the family are later reunited) while Frances toils as a seamstress and her older daughter Isabella tries to look after her, all the while feeling unloved. As a child, Isabella copes by creating a fantasy life in which she is a rich girl called Anastasia, while as a teenager and young woman she becomes fiercely ambitious. She changes her name to Belle and works her way up through a number of secretarial jobs while studying art. But her dreams of becoming an artist or interior designer are shattered when she becomes pregnant by her gentle, mathematically-minded boyfriend Ed Dabrowski (who later changes his surname to Stephens). Belle's daughters Anastasia and Joy grow up living with their mother's dissatisfaction with her life and depression about her lack of a career. Anastasia, the narrator of the novel, is a brilliantly clever girl who looks as though she will escape her mother's fate and become a pianist, a composer or a painter. But a year into an art degree she too gets pregnant. She and her boyfriend Brad (a saxophonist who turns estate agent and soon becomes as right-wing, overweight and boring as his father) marry and have two children in rapid succession. A few years later, with her marriage collapsed, Anastasia launches on a new career as a photo journalist, travelling all over the world. But she feels that she can only have this career by 'living like a man' - which later involves turning her young second husband, an aspiring novelist, into a househusband. Predictably this isn't good for their relationship. Anastasia's older children also resent her for being away so much, and her daughter Arden (the child who caused her marriage to the dull Brad) decides to become a 1960s hippy, living in a commune on a farm with no running water. Arden's marriage also (surprise, surprise) begins to look rocky in a few years. With her children grown up, and with a new career beginning for her as a feminist photographer, with her mother dying and with a new, lesbian lover, Anastasia realizes that she has to confront her past and come to terms with her life as a mother and daughter. But how can she do this?

French writes very interestingly about immigrant life in America, and (despite a strange reluctance to talk at all about either of the World Wars) does conjure up an interesting picture of how America changed from 1900 to the 1970s. She is quite deft in her evocations of what it is like to be a child, and some of the material about photo journalism is very interesting (hence the four stars). However, I found the book a somewhat depressing read, due to French's polemical outlook (nearly all the men were feeble or villainous, and all the women Deeply Wronged), the appalling way most of the characters behaved to each other (Belle was horribly manipulative and cruel to her husband and children, Anastasia seemed to believe that the only way to be accepted by men was to behave herself like the worst of them, including cheating on her husband, Arden behaved for the most part like a brat until she hit her thirties) and the lack of hope in much of the book. None of the characters seemed to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life much, or to find self-acceptance. I also would fundamentally disagree with the view of motherhood as a painful trial in which children 'suck the lifeblood' of their mothers to survive - certainly I haven't had that experience with my own mother, and neither did my grandmother with my mother! In addition I felt French misrepresented a good deal about men in her story. It is not the case that most men hate children, won't help with them and resent the attention their mothers give them (my grandfather, who grew up in the 1930s, and was only slightly younger than Ed in French's book, was very active in the upbringing of my mother and her brother, and even cooked the dinners sometimes!). Nor is it the case that all soldiers are power-hungry brutes: though some are motivated to join the army for dodgy motives, others are genuinely brave men. Men are also not keen to abandon their children to women's care as soon as possible; I don't think any man would simply abandon their daughter as Toni in the novel does Franny. There were also other elements in the book I found improbable. It seemed unlikely that Anastasia would have ended up in the same situation as her mother, given Belle's dire warnings about pregnancy, or that, as a 'career woman', she would have picked Brad as her first serious boyfriend. And if Arden was so intelligent, would she have really behaved so badly to her mother? In addition to all this, the book had the problem of being very repetitive, and far too long. The many repetitions and the regularly monotonous sections describing the horrors of daily life as a mother surprised me - surely French, as an English academic, must have realized that she was going over the same ground too often, and that the book was spilling into an unmanageable length? All in all I found the book very interesting from the point of view of cultural history, and thought that some scenes were extremely well written - I also felt some liking for Anastasia the narrator. But the 'man-hating' element in the book, and its repetitiveness and ultimately depressing message stopped me from ever feeling fully engrossed. I'll be interested to read French's shorter 'The Bleeding Heart' and 'The Women's Room', but from this book I'm not surprised that she's ceased to be a key name in fiction.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bringing characters to life, 4 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Mass Market Paperback)
In this book, Marilyn French does, just as she had in Woman's room. She creates characters which every woman knows, loves and sometimes hates but can always relate to. Telling the story of three generations of woman in a family, where times and attitudes change dramatically. In true French style, there is no real plot or mystery, no out and out 'good' or 'bad' characters, just real people, living their lives in this book, as we all do. If you enjoyed Womans Room, Her Mother's Daughter is an absolute must!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Every few year, 5 Nov 2009
This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Mass Market Paperback)
Every few years I reread Marilyn French, when I was 19 The Woman's Room changed the way I think. I read Her Mother's Daughter thinking the same thing would happen. I find the early parts of Belle's life fascinating, the poverty and relentless grind her mother faced just to survive. Later in the book I just wanted to slap Belle, her misery and self involvement were never ending and just made depressing reading. Would ANYTHING have made her happy? The male characters were of course one dimensional and the cause of all the problems. I was almost glad when Belle's husband had an affair (sorry sisters) but the poor guy deserved some happiness and respite from the miserable shrew he was chained to.

A book full of cliches that are unfortunately true but cliches none the less. This is a book for women who hate men
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing unbalanced view of life, 3 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Mother's Daughter (Mass Market Paperback)
This book was a depressing survey of how women perceive that they are slighted by men. The characters in this book (and the author herself?) blame men for every bad thing that happens to them and on earth, for that matter, rather than taking responsiblity for their own destiny. After reading this book, I had the distinct impression that the author, Marilyn French, hates men and is bent on telling the world about it. Unrealistically, each male character in the book was portrayed as unsympathetic if not downright evil. While there are certainly unkind and bad men in the world, this unbalanced view of life made the author lose credibility. I know that Marilyn French is a well-known author of women's books, but I would never read anything by her again. (By the way, I am female.)
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Her Mother's Daughter
Her Mother's Daughter by Marilyn French (Mass Market Paperback - July 1990)
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