Tough love for mums and daughters in new Kylie Ladd novel

RELATIONSHIPS form the basis of all Kylie Ladd's novels and her latest, Mothers and Daughters, is no exception.

The story follows four mothers and their teenage daughters as they spend a week together on an isolated tropical paradise near Broome, Western Australia.

In part, the novel is inspired by the David Campbell poem of the same name which Kylie said she always wanted to write about because of the emotion packed into eight tiny lines.

More recently, watching friends with their own teenage daughters made her realise what a rich area the mother-daughter relationship was to explore through writing.

"I've got got quite a few friends who've got daughters older than mine and … I was seeing almost overnight the relationship exploding into one with this hostility and misery and restrictions," Kylie said.

"I guess it's just the age old struggle of children wanting to grow up and parents wanting to keep them younger and more controllable."

But, Kylie said the mother-daughter relationship could be particularly tricky at times because mothers saw so much of themselves in their daughters.

"Watching my daughter grow up is much closer to the bone than watching my son grow up," she said.

Alongside the nuances of the mother-daughter relationship, the novel examines the workings of female friendships at both an adult and teenage level.

Kylie said she wanted to write about friendships that were a little more difficult than ones she'd experienced.

"I also really wanted to work in how female friendships are altered by motherhood and raising children together," she said.

"I do think parenting does change female friendships and it adds tension to [them] in a way I don't think it ever has to male friendships.

Kylie said part of the catalyst for this shift was the way a mother's self-image could be bound up in the success of their child and how they can judge themselves, and other women, on these outcomes.

"It was very interesting to me that women take that on board so much more than men do and it colours their friendships," she said.

In Mothers and Daughters, Kylie also raises questions about race relations in Australia; something she described as a "big leap to make" in commercial fiction.

But, she said it worked in a novel that was "all about the push and pull of relationships, people not understanding each other and people trying to find their way back to each other".

Some parts make for uncomfortable reading, but Kylie said it was this sort of thing that could make people stop and take note.

"It's all true of who we are and how we live," she said.

"I just want (Mothers and Daughters) to be a realistic interpretation of women … and (their) relationships with their friends and children."

A copy was provided by Allen & Unwin for review. 

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