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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cruel Mother
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...
Published on 23 Mar. 2013 by S Riaz

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars an interesting sociological account of birth in the last century
An interesting book although not very exciting.Thoroughly researched and well presented.Very poignant in view of what happened to Siam.Well worth reading.
Published 23 months ago by Margaret Roberts


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cruel Mother, 23 Mar. 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother: A family ghost laid to rest (Kindle Edition)
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 "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Infanticide and it's effect on the family through the generations, 10 Aug. 2011
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother (Paperback)
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 (North Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother (Paperback)
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
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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.

READ THIS BOOK!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heart wrenching and illuminating story, 13 May 2013
By 
H. Snaith (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother: A family ghost laid to rest (Kindle Edition)
The telling of an incredibly poignant and previously hidden family story about the infanticide of 2 tiny twins by the author's great-grandmother. The personal history of the people involved is woven into the greater social history of the period, with the views on birth control, pregnancy, motherhood, post-natal depression and social circumstances of the time. It is a fascinating read, made even more alive by the author's personal recollections. For anyone who is a parent or who has even thought about parenthood this book strikes many chords - Highly recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars Linking us to mothers in the past, 18 Feb. 2015
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother: A family ghost laid to rest (Kindle Edition)
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.

The author's great-grandmother drowned her two, newly born infants early one morning. The reason for this was never determined but modern thinking would assume that it was post-natal depression probably aggravated by the recent death of her daughter, the death of the third baby at the time of giving birth, and the physical trauma of her recent delivery. This book tells the story of the family at the turn of the Twentieth Century, what happened to the immediate family as a result of the deaths and the author's own personal experience with post-natal depression. The book then puts the historical events in context by explaining contemporary attitudes to infanticide and how the law dealt with the issue.

Although the subject matter of this book is deeply sad it is absolutely compelling reading. The book is not very long and it is written in an accessible style although it is careful to tell us what is known fact and what conjecture. The author reveals historical attitudes and practices around childbirth and the death of children and shows how these have changed. She also manages, from very little information, to give us a glimpse into the life of her family, how they felt, and the consequences of the crime. She doesn't judge anyone and she doesn't have definitive opinions on what happened or why.

As a book of social history this is very effective but I think that in revealing her own personal struggles the author has linked the experience of women in the past to present day mothers very effectively, showing us not only the similarities but also the different ways in which society deals with these issues. What she does, of course, is help us understand that in no way was she or her great-grandmother a "cruel" mother but that they were both just ordinary people suffering what many women have suffered through the ages
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brave book to write which will help others, 31 May 2013
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother (Paperback)
I heard about this book when Sian Busby's widower, Robert Peston, appeared on BBC4s A Good Read. It was a difficult book for him to bring on as it was written by his wife, particularly bearing in mind that she had only just died of cancer - I should add that the other people in the show loved the book and were very supportive to him.
It is an interesting book for SB to have written, she was clearly a very good writer and to have such a tragic event in her own family history must have been irresistible.
Starting from the babies being drowned, the author works back to research her family and produces a personal family account which draws on various social history resources. The family were, at one time, very poor and worked hard to survive never mind to prosper.
The book concentrates on the period before the babies are killed and i felt it would have been interesting to get more about the time afterwards. I really enjoyed the story and the background but wanted to know more about what happened to the family as time moved on. Although I guess a trick with writing is always to leave your readers wanting more in which case this was successful.
Her analysis of the mental health of Beth and the state of the obstetric care available at the time is very detailed and fascinating.
My hesitation with the book is that it doesn't seem to know whether it is fact or fiction. There are several points where the author tells us what Beth was thinking, sometimes this is prefixed with "Maybe Beth was thinking..." which is fine but I'm a bit less convinced about putting definate thoughts into the poor lady's mind and felt that the book would have been better if the reader had been left to imagine what was in her head.
However, great read and I recommend it to anyone. The book maybe thought of as some sort of self help book, but its not, it's a touching story of a personal family tragedy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars moving, 25 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Cruel Mother: A family ghost laid to rest (Kindle Edition)
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.
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