Following on from the success of her best selling novel Things Your Mother Never Told You, Olivia Lichtenstein (pictured) has launched a free online forum for daughters of all ages who would like to talk about the unique and often complex relationship between mother and daughter.
Speaking to Australian Women Online from her home in the United Kingdom, Olivia Lichtenstein said, “The more that people have heard about my book, the more they seem to start thinking about their own relationship with their mother. So I just thought wouldn’t it be a rather interesting thing to do, to create a forum where people could write about their own experiences and it might also be a good way for women to engage with each other about what is arguably one of the most complex relationships there is – the mother daughter relationship.”
“So far some of the things that are turning up on the forum are really interesting. The whole thing about the internet is the global possibilities – to be able to get a dialogue going across different countries and across different cultures would be brilliant.”
Things Your Mother Never Told You has been so well received in Australia, the novel is currently out of stock at the publishers and is being reprinted for a May release to coincide with Mothers Day on 9th May 2010.
Things Your Mother Never Told You is a fictional story about a daughter who discovers a secret about her mother’s life about a year after her mother died. Although set in the United Kingdom, the novel has universal appeal because everyone has a mother and every woman is a daughter.
Olivia Lichtenstein explains, “It’s about a women who has reached that stage in her life where her mother has died the year before, she’s separated from her husband, and her twin sons are about to leave home and go off to Australia for their gap year. She feels like her life is spiraling out of control and she embarks on a regimen of yoga and new age remedies in that way that people sometimes do when they’re trying to reinvent themselves and hold themselves together. At the same time she feels like her dead mother has taken up residence inside her head and she starts to think she’s going slightly mad. Then she receives in installments through the post, copies of a memoir that her mother wrote before her death, which reveals to her a secret about her mother’s life and about her mother’s early life in South Africa in the 1950s. What she learns changes what she feels about her mother and indeed about herself.”
Olivia Lichtenstein told me that the idea for the novel was inspired by her relationship with her own mother who passed away quite suddenly at the age of 58.
“It was such a shock that for a long time I wished that she’d left me a message. One of the things that was so painful about it was that she was a very opinionated woman and very larger than life as a personality and so when she died so suddenly, she left this kind of deafening silence,” said Olivia.
“I think that’s where the idea [for the book] came from. I actually thought what if she had left me a message or a letter and what if it had led to the discovery of something that I didn’t know about her, how would that had made me feel.”
“I think it’s such fertile territory because everyone has their own experiences and there is that feeling when you do lose a parent and your relationship with them hasn’t been perfect, you also lose the opportunity to put that relationship right. And I suppose for my heroine Ros in the book, that was the thing that was difficult for her was not being able to fix it. And I have a line in the book: Just because your relationship isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean you don’t mourn it when it’s gone.”
Olivia Lichtenstein has a 21 year old son and a 16 year old daughter. Her son was only nine months old when her mother passed away.
“When my mother died I had this real urge to have another baby. I think I was wanting to compensate for the loss of a life with the creation of another one and I was desperate to have a daughter. I was the only girl left, I had a father, a brother, a husband and a son and I just had this real need to create another girl. I had quite a few miscarriages before I finally managed to have my daughter. So it was a long and painful process but ultimately I was lucky enough to have her and I always had this feeling that I had a daughter in me and finally she appeared and she’s very gorgeous.”
“My relationship with my mother was always very difficult. She was a very complex woman and a very difficult one and I think I have tried to repair some of that in my relationship with my daughter. Subconsciously I think it’s one of those things that one naturally does. I have a really great relationship with my daughter and I think I’m a much softer mother than my mother was – my mother was very critical and it didn’t suit me, I think I’ve got too sensitive a nature for that and I could have done with a bit more kindness.”
Participation in the Mothers and Daughters forum is for daughters of all ages, no matter where you live in the world. To register for free membership of the forum visit the website www.thingsyourmothernevertoldyou.co.uk.
Things Your Mother Never Told You by Olivia Lichtenstein (RRP AU$32.99) is published in Australia by Orion (an imprint of Hatchette) and is available now at book retailers and online book shops.