Clytemnestra and Elektra are an infamously dysfunctional mother-daughter pairing of Greek mythology and it was the twisted dynamic of their relationship that drew me irresistibly towards writing my novel Elektra. Clytemnestra’s reputation in history is that of a powerful and ruthless woman but her greatest act of violence is motivated by her deep maternal love – for Elektra’s older sister, Iphigenia. What went so monstrously awry between Clytemnestra and her younger daughter to drive them so far apart? That felt like an aching, desperate question ringing out across the centuries inspiring me to give each of them a voice and a chance to tell their own stories. Something I find so fascinating about novels which delve into these kinds of family dynamics is how the same events can feel so very different to each family member and how the clash of perspectives creates so much tension and conflict. Mothers and daughters are so bound together, and the intensity of their relationship can be as shattering as it can be beautiful. Here are my top five novels which explore this complex and powerful bond:

Jennifer Saint, Elektra

Jennifer Saint, Elektra

‘The Push’ by Ashley Audrain

Blythe Connor is desperate to be a good mother. She doesn’t want to make the same mistakes that the women in her family have made. But when her daughter Violet is born, Blythe can’t silence her fears about what her child is becoming, and she doesn’t know how to keep the darkness at bay. This is a raw and visceral exploration of a mother-daughter relationship; a haunting and heartbreaking novel that will leave you thinking about it for days after you finish the last page.

‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Halls

Set in 18th century London when poverty-stricken mothers faced the wrenching choice to leave their babies at the Foundling Hospital in the hope that they would survive, this captivating novel follows the story of Bess who returns six years later to claim her daughter – only to find that she’s already been taken. It’s a story that celebrates the power of a mother’s love and sweeps the reader away on her journey to uncover the truth.

‘Sundial’ by Catriona Ward

An expert in ratcheting tension up to almost unbearable levels, Catriona Ward’s thriller presents a toxic mother-daughter relationship from both of their perspectives, leaving the reader unable to know who to trust. Rob and Callie fear one another, and in the stifling desert setting of Rob’s childhood home Sundial, the story builds to a terrifying climax full of breathless and dizzying twists and turns.

‘The Confession’ by Jessie Burton

This beautiful, compelling novel interweaves the narratives of Elise who finds herself adrift in 1980s Los Angeles and Rose, thirty years later who is searching for identity and purpose. Rose seeks out answers about her mother who disappeared when she was only a baby, determined to draw a confession out of the reclusive novelist Connie who was the last person to see Elise alive. It’s an intriguing, beguiling and gorgeous read.

‘Rachel’s Holiday’ by Marian Keyes

When Rachel Walsh’s glamourous life in New York comes crashing down and she finds herself in a rehab centre in Ireland, one of the many strands of her life that she must unravel is her relationship with her mother. While full of love, it’s fraught with misunderstanding, disappointment and impossible expectations. Marian Keyes presents it both comically and with complicated nuance and layers that pack a powerful emotional punch.

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