Motherwell: A Girlhood

Deborah Orr


Former Guardian columnist interrogates the psychological inheritance that we receive from our parents and how close family ties can prevent us from achieving cherished goals. Motherwell is, honest, at times harsh, but also deeply tender and very funny!

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Just shy of 18, Deborah Orr left Motherwell – the town she both loved and hated – to go to university. It was a decision her mother railed against from the moment the idea was raised. Win had very little agency in the world, every choice was determined by the men in her life.

And strangely, she wanted the same for her daughter. Attending university wasn’t for the likes of the Orr family. Worse still, it would mean leaving Win behind – and Win wanted Deborah with her at all times, rather like she wanted her arm with her at all times.

But while she managed to escape, Deborah’s severing from her family was only superficial. She continued to travel back to Motherwell, fantasizing about the day that Win might come to accept her as good enough. Though of course it was never meant to be.

MOTHERWELL is a sharp, candid and often humorous memoir about the long shadow that can be cast when the core relationship in your life compromises every effort you make to become an individual. It is about what we inherit – the good and the very bad – and how a deeper understanding of the place and people you have come from can bring you towards redemption.



‘Utterly unflinching and staggeringly good, both as the history of a woman and the history of a place’ – India Knight

‘A fierce and tender reckoning: personal, political, and blazing with truth’ – Melissa Harrison

‘This is a poignant, beautiful and all-too-topical memoir. With the skill, delicacy and sharp wit her many fans know and love, Deborah Orr tells her tale of childhood: of class and mobility, of self-love and self-loathing, of dissatisfied mother and clever daughter, and of the dangerous, complex sacrifices which opportunity demands from a girl on the move in the late twentieth century. Are you a mother? Do/did you have a mother? Read it’ – Louisa Young

‘If you have or had a difficult mother this is the book for you. Difficult doesn’t have to mean abusive. You can have a happy childhood with a mother who drives you mad’ – Linda Grant

‘Honest, at times harsh, but also deeply tender and very funny – this is a beautifully written memoir. It’s my generation so evoked many unwanted memories including the three-day-week, boiled to death veg and masturbating skinheads. A great read for ‘Common People’ like me’ – Kathy Burke

MotherwellΒ is a story about a girl, a family, a time, a place. But so much more. Fearlessly Deborah Orr works out how she was formed as she unpicks everyday dysfunction. Full of glinting pain, brilliant one liners and utter clarity, the sliver of ice in her heart melts. Sheer humanity shines out. I was astonished’ – Suzanne More

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Additional information

Weight 407 g
Dimensions 138 × 222 mm



Orion Publishing Co

Date of Publication

Thu Jan 23 00:00:00 GMT 2020

By (author)

Deborah Orr