A single survey, elevated by news organisations to scientific certainty, suggests that air travellers may be more susceptible to tears than their earthbound selves. I remembered this on a recent long-haul flight, when I wept not at a weepy, but over Sarah Knott’s Mother: An Unconventional History. The last book of similar intellectual heft to make me cry toppled from a bookshelf on to my foot.
The emotive power of Knott’s social history flows from her excellence as a writer and storyteller. Back home, Lorna Gibb’s wonderful Childless Voices: Stories of Longing, Loss, Resistance and Choice stirred my emotions too. The authors’ subject matter is complementary and overlapping. Knott interweaves her experiences of maternity with deep research into mothering across centuries.