Our favourite books about parents and children

From Cormac McCarthy to Jeanette Winterson, here's our pick of the most hilarious, moving, dysfunctional and painfully true parent-child relationships in literature.

06/06/2017
2 minutes to read

Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them

-Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

From Cormac McCarthy to Jeanette Winterson, here's our pick of the most hilarious, moving, dysfunctional and painfully true parent-child relationships in literature.

Room

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for 9781447276364

Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma. Emma Donoghue’s novel is an extraordinarily powerful story of a mother and child kept in isolation, and the desire for, and price of, freedom.

Red Dust Road

by Jackie Kay

Book cover for 9781509858392

Follows Kay’s life from the moment when, as a little girl, she realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad, to the tracing and finding of her birth parents, her Highland mother and Nigerian father. In a book remarkable for its warmth and candour, Kay discovers that inheritance is about much more than genes.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

by Lionel Shriver

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Lionel Shriver's dark, heart-breaking novel about a mother’s grief and shame in the aftermath of a son’s horrific act of violence asks some difficult questions about parental love. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

by Jeanette Winterson

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Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect, seems destined for life as a missionary. That is until, at sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves.

Newborn

by Kate Clanchy

Book cover for 9781509851409

Nothing transforms our lives like parenthood - and Kate Clanchy's intimate, daring sequence of poems maps the switchback ride of human emotions from conception through to the first years of a new life.

The Road

Book cover for 9780330513005

A father desperately tries to keep his young son alive as they walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and each other.

The Family Fang

by Kevin Wilson

Book cover for 9780330542746

The long-suffering adult children of two performance artists are forced to return to their family home to find their parents are planning one last performance, whether the kids agree to participate or not. A quirky, moving and hilarious story of family dysfunction.

Shelter

by Jung Yun

Book cover for 9781509810529

When an act of violence leaves Kyung Cho’s parents unable to live on their own, he decides to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves under the same roof where tensions quickly mount and old resentments rise to the surface. A gripping and involving debut novel that explores the legacy of violence, its reverberation across generations and what possibilities may endure for hope, redemption and healing.

Let Go My Hand

Book cover for 9780330463522

Louis Lasker loves his family dearly – apart from when he doesn’t. There’s a lot of history. And now his father has taken a decision which will affect them all and has asked his three sons to join him on one final journey across Europe. A brilliant, moving and darkly funny story of a dysfunctional family and their final chance to fix things.

Fathers and Sons

by Howard Cunnell

Book cover for 9781509812165

A beautiful, moving, and honest exploration of what it means to be a man. As a boy growing up on the south coast of England, Howard Cunnell's sense of self was dominated by his father's absence. Saved from self-destruction by love and responsibility, Cunnell charts his journey from anger to compassion, as his daughter Jay realizes he is a boy, and a son.

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view..."

This is the kind of sage wisdom delivered by father and lawyer Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's 1960 novel. Through the young eyes of his children, Scout and Jem Finch, and the story Atticus's work defending a black man charged with rape in the Deep South in the 1930's, Harper Lee explores the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class.

Brooklyn

by Colm Tóibín

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Set between 1950s New York and rural Ireland, this Costa-winning novel by Colm Tóibín is a moving story of the impact of emigration on community and the choice one young woman has to make between family and duty, and love and opportunity.

Danny the Champion of the World

by Roald Dahl

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Danny lives in a gipsy caravan with his father, the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had. A story of one boy and dad, by one of the world's best loved children's storytellers. Danny the Champion of the World follows them as they embark on their their biggest and best adventure yet, and is full of Roald Dahl's hilarious humour and charm.