“Motherland” by Paul Theroux BOOK REVIEW


Year of publication: 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books

ISBN: 9780141048789

Strong Point: Theroux’ prose is very well balance and his vocabulary is quite rich. His sense of humour is sometimes very wicked.

Weak Point: All characters are not likable. In fact, I despise all of them! Plus the plot is somehow weak.

Books on Tour Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3/5)

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.41/5)


Mother’s favourite was Angela. But she died in infancy, too young to disappoint, leaving her six siblings at the mercy of a maternal monster. Mother divides and rules her children. As adults they leave home again and again, but she keeps them on a short leash, always reeled back into the nest. Now, with her hundredth birthday just around the corner, Mother’s powers of manipulation finally seem to be waning. Can JP and his siblings escape or grow out of their never-ending childhood? Or are they maternally damned?


Ok. So reading “Motherland” was sometimes quite complicated for me. But at other times it was simply hilarious.

It was complicated because it touches me quite deep inside…

This is the story of a Mother (like this, with capital letters, no personal name) and his six children, which are actually adults.

However, “Motherland” is not the typical family saga like “Little Women” or “The Buddenbrooks” but something else…

Theroux twists the story and gives it a sinister, perverse turn. Because this Mother acts like a malevolent queen and his children are his subjects which only exist to take care of her and make sure that they have their whole life based simply on her well being.

Mother’s manipulations of the lives of her children, as well as the manipulations these “children” subject to one another are simply brilliant, albeit scary and sometimes dangerous.

It is not that I don’t believe that a Mother can behave like this (Believe me, I do!) but reading about it made me at times dislike the book and at other times like it.


Yes, I hate every single central character in the book. All of them. They are mean, despicable, awful people whose conduct should be repressed. But, and this works specially for the children, they do not know better. They cannot behave in a brotherly manner to one another because this is what they have learn in their household, especially from Mother.

Their Mother (and their father somehow too although in a lesser way) has educated them to compete with one another. To compete even for her attention and love. So no wonder that these “lovely” children do awful things to one another.

The question is: do the children allow this behaviour of their Mother because in the end they need it?

The protagonist, JP, who is narrating the book, is the only one I moderately like. I agree with a lot of his affirmations and thoughts, due to the fact that they put voice to my own thoughts.


So…do I recommend this book? Yes. It is anyway worth reading it. Of course I understand that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t wanna make any spoilers but for example some of the thoughts JP has about her mother would repel and disgust lots of people.

So yes, I recommend “Motherland” but please read with care.