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The Bad Mother

by: Marguerite Andersen
translation by: Donald Winkler

The Trillium Award-winning autobiographical novel "La mauvaise mere" by Marguerite Andersen is now in English

Born in Germany, Marguerite was just into her twenties when she moved to Tunisia with her French lover. She thought she was choosing a life of adventure and freedom, but what she got was children and a marriage that quickly became abusive. Constrained by the minutiae of everyday life, Marguerite longs for the agency to make her own choices. Eventually she flees, leaving her children behind for a year and a half.

As the world labels her a wife, a mother, and eventually a bad mother, Marguerite wrestles with her own definition of personhood. Can you love your children and want your own life at the same time?

A half-century later, this fictionalized account of Andersen's life is written with brutal honesty, in spare, pithy, and often poetic prose, as she expresses her own conflicted feelings concerning a difficult time and the impact it had on her sense of self. Andersen confronts the large and small choices that she made—the times she stayed and the times she didn't—all the while asking, "What kind of mother am I?"

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Listen to CBC's Sunday Edition documentary on the original French novel La mauvaise mère.


  • "Andersen writes with strength, even as she exposes her innermost doubts and perceived failings, and her confessional stream of consciousness style is eloquent and inviting, even when addressing difficult political and social issues. Every mother may have doubts, but few put them in writing with such power and grace." - Publishers Weekly starred review

  • "Though decades past the era Andersen mostly writes about, the bravery of this poetic work still resonates." - The Globe and Mail

  • "...the language is clear and sometimes evocative, especially when Andersen is talking about the Tunisian landscape and details of daily life. A description of bathing her two toddlers is supremely sensual, a lovely and engaging moment of simple happiness." - Montreal Review of Books

  • "Seamlessly integrating into her text the words of George Sand, Marguerite Duras and others, [Andersen] investigates her life as a daughter, housewife, scholar, lover and writer through the lens of her relationship with her three children and by asking what it means to be a good mother." - Winnipeg Free Press

  • "...the novel follows the caprices and decisions made by the title character, who negotiates what it means to be a mother and to retain a sense of womanhood." - Quill & Quire

  • "Her story, told with power and grace, is that of all women who wonder whether, by longing for lives of their own, they have earned the label of 'bad mother.'" - Foreword Reviews

  • "A compelling read that clearly reveals author Marguerite Andersen as an impressively talented and skillful novelist, The Bad Mother is deftly translated into English for the benefit of an American readership by Donald Winkler." - Midwest Book Review


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