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All the books you should be reading in 2020

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When Deborah Orr died at age 57 last year, tributes poured in for the warm, incisive, witty, headstrong writer. Orr’s posthumous memoir, Motherwell: a girlhood is her final masterpiece: a tumultuous, scintillating journey through growing up working-class in Motherwell, south-east of Glasgow, the daughter of John, a factory worker, and Win – a strict, enigmatic woman Orr battles to reconcile with. With unflinching honesty and razor-sharp insights, the book mediates on what it means to ‘mother well’, scrutinising not just her mother’s parenting, but also her own. 

Beyond a retelling of delicate familial relations, Motherwell also provides illuminating social commentary on Britain. From the introduction of council homes to the reign of Margaret Thatcher, to the miners’ strikes and the move away from streaming in schools to mixed-ability education, Orr reflects on the impact each of these political decisions have had on people’s lives with clarity and boundless empathy. (DS)

January, Weidenfeld