THE BLAGGER'S GUIDE TO ... FICTION'S BEST AND WORST MUMS All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week
MEDEA - from Medea, by Euripedes, and Greek myth. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as Jason (of Argonauts fame) found when he dumped his wife Medea for a younger princess. No sooner has she killed his new bride with a poisoned dress than she murders their children to teach him a lesson. Not recommended by divorce lawyers.
GERTRUDE AND JOCASTA - from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, and Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles. Closely followed by Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, the eponymous heroines of the novels by Leo Tolstoy and Gustave Flaubert. Sulky teenagers beware: your melodramatic mother could be an awful lot worse.
MOTHER - from Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson (below). Most teenage girls rebel against their mothers at some point. Many have good reason. But it's a rare girl who puts up with as much as Winterson's heroine, Jess. She is subjected to two exorcisms, beatings and was locked in a room for three days without food. That's worth anyone's slammed door.
SOPHIE PORTNOY - from Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth. "'Alex, I don't want you to flush the toilet,' says my mother sternly. 'I want to see what you've done in there'." Feminists, Jewish women and mothers of all persuasions have objected to the portrayal of Alexander Portnoy's mum, an object lesson in how not to bring up boys.
DORA - from You, by Joanna Briscoe. In a canon that is noticeably short on exciting mother characters, the modern novelist Joanna Briscoe stands out. Her 1994 novel, Mothers and Other Lovers, set the tone, …