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The Cruel Mother: A Memoir

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  74 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
In 1919 Sian Busby's great-grandmother 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 in a prison for the criminally insane. For generations to come, the author's family dealt with the murders and the accompanying shame, guilt, and anxiety by sup ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 17th 2005 by Carroll & Graf (first published 2004)
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Jan 22, 2009 Chana rated it liked it
The author's great-grandmother, while ill with post-partum pyschosis and grieving the death of her four year old daughter the year previous, drowns her new-born daughters. While the subject is unutterably sad, the author does a fine job of researching the history, and the psychological and social forces that may have led to this tragedy. It is a compassionate and educational look at not only the time and place in which this event occurred, but at infanticide in general.
Virginia Appleton
Nov 29, 2012 Virginia Appleton rated it liked it
Morbidly interesting and thoroughly depressing as you'd expect, given the subject matter. Well written but had a tendency to 'jump' erratically (I found) from subject /era.
Nov 13, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
In the early years of the 20th century one of the author's ancestors was found guilty of infanticide. This is an exploration of the 'crime,' in the context of the legal, medical and social framework of the period. The traumatic birth of triplets, with only two surviving, had clearly left their mother suffering from serious post-natal depression that led to a psychotic interlude during which the surviving babies were drowned. This would not now be treated a crime since modern law excludes acts of ...more
Aug 14, 2015 Rosalind rated it liked it
This book was interesting, but rather a lot was made of a single tragic event and I didn't think it necessary, for example, to speculate on methods of contraception in the early 20th century and whether or not the protagonists availed themselves of them. It was also quite repetitive (eg too many references to the 1922 infanticide act). Despite this, it was an engaging read and the author's personal journey to unravel the truth from this deep family wound came across with real passion. I'm glad I ...more
Cleo Bannister
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 Grandaughte
Aug 11, 2013 Adam added it
Shelves: could-not-finish
I have A 25 page rule if I don't get into a book by then I put it down and i'm afraid to say I had to put it down, I also read half a page three quartes of the way through and it was a wedding so because i am not interested in this womans wedding I put it down, If this book was simply about the murders and was cut down to 100-150 pages I would of have finished it, so I am afraid to say it has to go in my could not finish pile.

I will not rate this book as I feel it would be unfair, if I brought
Nov 20, 2013 Alison added it
a memoir about gt grand mother of author. see summaries. but also exploration of the practices of the times 're family life, childbirth, contraception, and the understanding of post partum depression and psychosis . and the affect that all might have on future generations - even tho the story was not really known or understood, would the ghost of it haunt later mother's in the family. well written with nice personal intersections in the middle of,a well researched piece.
Kayleigh  Holloway
Oct 12, 2011 Kayleigh Holloway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual reflection of a family history.
Sue Smith
Jun 14, 2014 Sue Smith rated it liked it
Very sad book- well written.
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Siân Elizabeth Busby (19 November 1960 – 4 September 2012) was a British writer.
The daughter of the Canadian actor Tom Busby and Wendy Russell, she was educated at Creighton School in Muswell Hill and read English at Sussex University.
Originally embarking in a career in arts television, she later switched to writing. Her first two books were non-fiction. A Wonderful Little Girl (2003) concerned a
More about Siân Busby...

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