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The Cruel Mother: A Family Ghost Laid to Rest

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  87 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
In 1919 Sian Busby's great-grandmother, Beth, gave birth to triplets. One of the babies died at birth and 11 days later Beth 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 obviously affected Beth, her husband and their surviving children to an extr ...more
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Short Books
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Virginia Appleton
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.
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.
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cleo Bannister
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Maura Heaphy
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sad, but very interesting account, of a great tragedy in the family history of the author: in 1919, Busby's great-grandmother drowned her twin newborn daughters while in the grip of what was probably postpartum psychosis. Busby uses the story of Beth Wood and her family's tragedy as the launching point for a memoir/family history/social history which examines pressures in the lives of mothers from the mid-19th century to today.

This is a flawed book, but it's very worthwhile, and on the whole ver
Lorraine Marshall
Jul 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Far too much unnecessary information.
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
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
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.
Sue Smith
Very sad book- well written.
Kayleigh  Holloway
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual reflection of a family history.
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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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