Elizabeth Buchan’s latest book, Daughters will probably strike a chord with many midlife women mothers and stepmothers alike who navigate their way through the transition as their children leave home, launch careers and get married.
I spoke to Elizabeth to discover her thinking behind her characters and story behind the book.
Why did you decide to write Daughters at this particular time?
My own children are grown up and so I wanted to explore the transition every parent goes through when their children go out into the world. I always loved Jane Austen’s Mrs Bennett character, and her mother’s determination to see her daughters settled.
Why did you decide to make Lara a mother and stepmother?
I wanted to explore the dynamics of blended and extended families as we in fact have 2 stepmothers in the book. Lara the central character has a natural daughter and stepdaughters and I wanted to see how this situation was handled, whether she would feel she has to overcompensate in one instance and the consequences fir her and all the girls if she did.
Was there a reason why you made the stepdaughters the children of a mother who had died in childbirth?
A number of reasons. On the one hand I wanted to show how the sisters had a particularly strong bond as a result, but also today we seem to forget that childbirth can still be quite dangerous for mother and child. You only have to watch programmes such as one born every minute to appreciate this.
Why a wedding?
Rituals are important in life and do mark key milestones. Having the wedding also gave me a framework to work with for the book
Was it important to show rivalry between half sisters and sisters?
With having half sisters and full sisters you had the complexity of exclusion, rivalry, bonding, togetherness and the wedding highlights all of this.
Relationships between wives and ex wives
Wives and ex wives – the relationships between the two
Second wives always have to live with the ghost or the the presence of the first. Not easy to navigate with children of previous marriages involved- again I wanted to explore this. There can also be insecurities if the first wife has not moved on with their own life. In this case we have the new wife, the ex-wife and the history of the dead wife to navigate.
Moral dilemma, should a mother tell a daughter if she knew something negative about fiance prior to wedding?
As a mother what do you do? You want the best for your child but once said it cannot be taken away. Lara struggles with whether she should tell her stepdaughter what she knows. Both parties suffer the consequences whatever the outcome. All family members who knew in this instance handled in a different way. A dilemma faced by many. Would you tell, or would appreciate being told? I also wanted to show the ripple effect of a major piece of knowledge had on the rest of the family and how it affected their relationships.
How do you think Lara, the mother in your book, copes with becoming an emptynester?
Well Lara has to come to confront a lot of aspects of her life ,not just her children leaving home. She has to come to terms with her past and has to face up to why her marriage ended and how she moves her own life forward in terms of career and relationships. I’d like to think that Lara’s character will go on to do rather well and have a happy life
You have so many relationships under pressure in the book
There are relationships at different stages. Its interesting that the mature grounded relationships may not be the obvious ones.
Any last comments?
Well , although on the surface the book seems to be about daughters, really it’s all about a little boy!
Thank you so much to Elizabeth for taking the time to talk to Fabafterfifty. I really enjoyed Daughters – I could hardly put it down. A great read….