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  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043550
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $34.99


Shortlisted for the 2023 NSW Premier's Literary Awards: Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction.

A genre-defying, collaborative marvel that brings the absurdity of motherhood to the page.

After sharing their artistic frustrations at the school gate, two women decide to take a risk: to co-write a book about early motherhood. Off-colour, offbeat, off their heads, they begin – but then, what is motherhood if not messy, non-linear, multi-authored and potty mouthed?
Together they gather scenes and songs, poems and text messages, insights and ephemera, alive to both the playfulness and the danger of co-creation. From the salvaged scraps of their daily lives they make an intimate collage of absurd mothering, failing mothering and moving mothering, imagining themselves into a future where women don’t always have to choose between art and motherhood.
After all: these mothers are tired. They are busy. They are lucky. They talk. Perform. Categorise. Clown. They do sad dinner cabaret. They do heroic odyssey. They do motherhood the musical. No bells and whistles, no false cheer. They do it badly, they do it well, they do it and they do it, and they keep on doing it as women do: comically, communally, creatively.
Funny, thoughtful, vulnerable and disturbingly familiar, Mothertongues up-ends ideas of genre and speaks motherhood anew.

  • Published: 12 April 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043550
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $34.99

About the authors

Ceridwen Dovey

Ceridwen Dovey is a writer based in Sydney. She’s the author of several acclaimed works of fiction (Blood Kin, Only the Animals, In the Garden of the Fugitives, Life After Truth, Once More With Feeling) and non-fiction (On J.M. Coetzee: Writers on Writers and Inner Worlds Outer Spaces: The Working Lives of Others). Her non-fiction essays have been published by newyorker.com, the Smithsonian Magazine, WIRED, Vogue, the Monthly and Alexander, among many others. She’s the recipient of an Australian Museum Eureka Award, and the 2020 & 2021 UNSW Press Bragg Prize for science writing. Her latest book is Mothertongues, a work of literary fiction co-authored with Eliza Bell, and including original songs by Australian songwriter Keppie Coutts.

Eliza Bell

Eliza Bell is a teacher, writer and theatre actor, originally from America and now living permanently in Australia. Her theatre performances include: The Memory of Water, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, New Jerusalem, The Accident, Charles Mee’s Snow in June, Donnie Darko and Three Sisters. She trained at Studio Magenia Ecole de Mime in Paris and the Moscow Art Theatre, UC Berkeley and the ART Institute at Harvard University.

Praise for Mothertongues

There is no greater gift mothers can give one another than understanding and vulnerability. Mothertongues does both.

Jamila Rizvi

An odyssey of ideas, with the heart to match them – a book full of daring and insight.

Markus Zusak

A great rattlebag of a read, full of surprises, tales and ideas. A book that argues with itself. A book of close ups and wide views. Stimulating, funny and heartbreaking.

Paul Kelly

Motherhood can be luminous and infuriating. It can be deeply, intensely lonely. It can be a time of intense connection. It can be all of these things at once. Mothertongues is many things – an anthropological study, an artistic experiment – and most of all, a bold, exciting attempt to preserve the moments whose significance is fleeting and too often denied.

Bec Kavanagh, The Guardian

Pain, joy, rage, grief and ecstasy jostle in these pages. Moving from Shakespeare to Ionesco, from A.A. Milne to Aristotle, the reader is embraced by the pleasure the creators have had in constructing this text of feminist insights par excellence.

Carmel Bird, The Saturday Paper

This is above all a fun book, easy to read and written with love, sadness, passion, joy and intellectual gravitas.

Katherine Wilson, Sydney Morning Herald

Dovey and Bell seek to encircle the figure of the mother, striving to come ever closer to speaking her, even as they recognise that words are only partially suited to this task. They have another purpose beyond the artistic: to create connections of mutual recognition between mothers, so that the struggle may not feel quite so isolated and unacknowledged.

Carla Pascoe Leahy, The Conversation

Awards & recognition

NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

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