Notes to my Mother-in-Law

Phyllida Law

‘My mother-in-law Annie lived with us for 17 years and was picture-book perfect.’

It took a while before the family realised that Annie was increasingly (as she would put it) ‘Mutt and Jeff’. So Phyllida began to write out the day’s gossip at the kitchen table, putting her notes by Annie’s bed before going to hers. One night as heer husband wandered off to bed he muttering darkly that she spent so much time each evening writing to Annie she could have written a book. ‘And illustrated it!’ Here it is.

It is a book full of the delights of a warm and loving household. Of Boot the Cat being sick after over-indulging in spiders; the hunt for cleaning products from the dawn of time; persistently and mysteriously malfunctioning hearing aids; an unusual and potentially hilarious use for a clove of garlic; and the sad disappearance of coconut logs from the local sweetshop.

It’s about the special place at the heart of a home held by a woman born in another age. Who polished the brass when it was ‘looking red at her’. Who still bore a scar on her hands from being hit by her employer when, as a young woman, she was in service. Who could turn the heel of a sock and the collar of a shirt, and make rock-cakes, bread pudding and breast of lamb with barley.

Reviews of Notes to my Mother-in-Law

    • ‘ I just sat down and read it straight through and cried. Dreadfully funny anod incredibly touching.’ Joanna Lumley
    • ‘Moving, funny, enchanting. A beautiful, original portrayal of family life.’ Sheila Hancock
    • ‘Something quite splendid, new and unforgettable.’ Stephen Fry
    • ‘Wonderful, warm, witty and wise. Just like the author.’ Ben Elton
    • ‘The book is as extraordinary as the woman who wrote it. The correspondence started with the odd note on the kitchen table reminding Granny Annie of a doctor’s appointment or that there was ham in the fridge, but built into more. ‘What happened was that she was getting increasingly deaf, and one day I realised that although she was sitting through all the shrieking of family lunch, she couldn’t actually hear any of it. So, I started to write her summaries at the end of the day and leave them by her bed. It became quite therapeutic. I used to scribble for hours.’ The result is quite extraordinary. On one level, it’s a humorous work about hearing aids and incontinent dogs. On another, it’s an uplifting story of family love and duty, and generational conflict.’ Daily Mail
    • ‘One of the most pleasurably giddy reads I’ve had for ages, it’s laugh-out-loud funny as well as deeply poignant’ Scotsman