The Beautiful Mother

The Beautiful Mother


The Beautiful Mother

The breathtaking new novel from the internationally bestselling author of The Rain Queen and Congo Dawn.

'You are her mother at this moment. The future is another time.'

In a remote corner of Tanzania, Essie Lawrence lives with her husband in an archaeologist's camp. One morning a chance encounter with two strangers sees her making a rash promise. When she returns home to the research base, she has a baby in her arms. Essie is to care for the little girl until the coming of the rains. And then hand her back.

The organised world of Magadi Research Camp is turned upside down. As her heart opens up to new life, Essie is drawn into the ancient wisdom of the Hadza, the last hunter-gatherer tribe in East Africa. And she is led back to memories of her own mother and her first home on the island of Tasmania, at the far end of the world. But there is a price to pay. Essie's marriage, her career - everything she's worked for - is put at risk.

On the shores of the flamingo lake, personal stories are played out alongside the Lawrences' quest to find the origins of the human species. Nightmares and dreams go hand in hand as past and present merge. What is real and what will turn to dust? And after a season of being a mother, will Essie be able to survive the hardest challenge of all? To love, and then let go …

An exquisite and heart-piercing story of one woman's bond with a baby, The Beautiful Mother will resonate with every parent, crossing time, place and culture. It is an unforgettable exploration of what it really means to be a member of the human family, revealing the deep need we all have to find our own tribe.

Katherine Scholes is the author of international bestsellers including The Rain Queen, Make Me An Idol, The Stone Angel, The Hunter's Wife, The Lioness, The Perfect Wife and Congo Dawn. She is particularly popular in Europe, where she has sold over two million books.

Her novel The Blue Chameleon won a New South Wales Premier's Literary Award and The Stone Angel was longlisted in the International Dublin Literary Awards. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages, and includes children's titles as well as novels for adults. She has also worked as a documentary filmmaker.

Katherine was born in Tanzania, the daughter of a doctor and an artist. Parts of her childhood were spent camping in remote areas where her father operated a clinic from his Land Rover and her mother painted. When she was ten, the family left Africa, going briefly to England, then migrating to Australia. She now lives in Tasmania with her husband and two sons, but makes regular trips back to her homeland, where many of her novels are set.

The Beautiful Mother
Penguin Random House
Author: Katherine Scholes
ISBN: 9780143795346
RRP: $32.99

Interview with Katherine Scholes

Question: What originally inspired the idea of The Beautiful Mother?

Katherine Scholes: In the beginning, it was the experience of becoming a mother and connecting in a new way with my instinctive self and with nature. Then, about ten years ago, I visited a short-term orphanage in Tanzania for babies whose mothers had died giving birth. That gave me the idea of a woman having a life-changing – but temporary – relationship with someone else's baby. On the same trip I travelled to Olduvai Gorge, where fossil evidence of our species journey from ape to human has been found. I could see how these three sources would play off one another in a potent way.


Question: Who do you hope reads The Beautiful Mother?

Katherine Scholes: I'd love to hear of it being shared around families, passed between the generations. This is what's happened with my other novels. The book is usually read first by a woman, but as word spreads around the dinner table, men take an interest as well.

Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know in real life?

Katherine Scholes: There are elements of me in Essie. She was born in Tasmania but raised in England and now lives in Tanzania. I was born in Tanzania of English parents and now live in Tasmania. This mixed-up heritage she and I both share creates puzzles that need to be solved. The famous family Essie marries into, the Lawrences, are inspired by some real-life archaeologists – the Leakeys – who've been researching at Olduvai Gorge for generations.


Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

Katherine Scholes: Everything is drawn from real life – not just the major themes but every tiny detail. I always spend at least a year on research and story development. Sometimes I get an idea and then travel, read or carry out interviews; sometimes it's the other way around. For The Beautiful Mother I took a trip not just to Olduvai Gorge and the orphanage, but also to Lake Natron, where thousands of flamingos breed, and Ol Doinyo Lengai, the active volcano that the Maasai believe is the home of God. Back in Australia I talked to women, including foster-parents, about their experiences of mothering. I also collected stories from people who'd been unable to have a child. I spoke to ornithologists about birds and archaeologists about stone tools and fossil bones. The list could go on…


Question: What was the best thing about creating the character of Essie?

Katherine Scholes: I loved seeing how she changed when the baby, Mara, came into her world. Essie started out as a workaholic, unaware that the life she was caught up in wasn't meeting her deepest needs. It was a joy to see her break free, and also to watch the ripple effect as others followed her lead. And of course Essie led me to create Mara, who I fell in love with completely.


Interview by Brooke Hunter

The Beautiful Mother 
Penguin Random House
Author: Katherine Scholes
ISBN: 9780143795346
RRP: $32.99 




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