The Bad Mother’s Handbook

My first novel, ‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’, tells the story of a year in the life of one family.

DVD of The Bad Mother's Handbook

There’s 17 year-old Charlotte, who’s bright and ambitious; her thirtysomething mother Karen, a bitter divorcee; and Nan, a woman who slips between the past and the present and whose 80-year history holds secrets that have the potential to unravel the whole household.

The new cover of The Bad Mother's Handbook

There were several reasons for writing this novel. Firstly I wanted to look at the way families can repeat mistakes instead of learning from them. Karen is desperate for her daughter not to get herself pregnant and throw away her educational opportunities, as she herself did at 16. Charlotte knows this – has had the message drummed into her since childhood – and believes she is too clever to get caught that way. But sometimes you can’t cheat Fate, and Charlotte soon finds she’s caught up in events that seem beyond her control. 


Which brings me to the second theme of the novel; to what extent has life changed for ordinary women over the last fifty years? In TBMH there are three women who, in different decades, find themselves pregnant out of wedlock. How does society treat their dilemma? Were the good old days really so good? Finally there’s the class angle; I wanted to write a novel about what it’s like being an ordinary working mum, about a character whose background lies in that grey area between the working class and the lower middle class. This is not a glamorous or in any way fashionable stratum of society – I should know – but I thought we folks who belonged to it deserved a shout.


‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’ was Picador’s lead fiction title for 2004 and quickly became a number 1 best-seller, reprinted after just two weeks. It has since been translated into twenty two languages.

In March 2004 Radio 4 broadcast the story in ten episodes as a Book at Bedtime, with Lesley Sharp, Anne Rye and Fiona Clarke taking the roles of Karen, Nan and Charlotte. For those who enjoy listening to stories, there is an abridged version on CD by Panmacmillan.

In 2007, The Bad Mother’s Handbook was broadcast as an ITV Drama starring Catherine Tate, Anne Ried, Rob Pattinson, Holliday Grainger, Steve Pemberton and Steve John Shepherd. You can still catch the film on DVD.

Here’s an interview from Lancashire Life:  LancsLife

Praise for ‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’

“A definite contender for my Book of the Year… It is emotional, engaging and full of wonderfully comic and recognisable moments.”
Lisa Milton of the Book Club Association
“Kate Long’s moving and funny novel will have mums and daughters laughing in recognition…It’s not quite happy families, but all the more believable for it.”
“Chock-full of northern charm…”
“Long creates three credible voices that avoid the pitfalls of caricature, and builds a funny and wise picture of the impatience and indestructible love of families.”
“…a heart-warming read on what it means to be a mum.”
Handboek voor
“…extremely enjoyable; funny, perceptive and cleverly told…a well-crafted book that will be life-affirming and popular.”
“…a really cracking read …brilliantly unwinsome.”
Sunday Times
“It’s such a grabby title and the book is full of quirky ideas…[it’s] both perceptive and funny.”
Jennie Bond; My Six Best Books in the Express
“I had the same feeling reading this as I did Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It is very special. Related in the different voices of the three generations of women living together through one momentous year, it has a north country lilt and an infectious style that really captures the period, for although we only travel a contemporary year, in reflection and flashbacks we travel some three-quarters of a century. Life, circumstances, attitudes and issues change but the spirit of family remains across the generations. I cannot praise it highly enough.”
Sarah Broadhurst in The Bookseller
“Tragic, very funny, and above all truthful. The Bad Mother’s Handbook is very strongly recommended.”
Wigan Borough Life
“The Bad Mother’s Handbook reminds us that there is neither the perfect time nor the perfect way to be a mother, and that life, in fact, is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. For the sheer laughter and love and crankiness of the entire parenting endeavor, spend some time with the three generations of Cooper women. This is a book for anyone who’s ever been part of a family (and you know who you are).”
Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt and A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity
“Precious few are ever truly ready to become a mother. For the rest of us, thank God, there is The Bad Mother’s Handbook. In a juggling act as impressive as motherhood itself, Kate Long manages to brilliantly balance equal parts heartbreak and hilarity in a novel that you will love unconditionally.”
Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers Club
“The Bad Mother’s Handbook is a bittersweet comedy, a glimpse into the lives of three generations of women that gives the reader a poignant reminder of the highs, the lows and the sheer bewilderment we all experience in love, life and growing up. A must-read for mothers and daughters everywhere.”
Gemma Townley, author of When in Rome…
“This is a book to press tearfully on all your friends saying how much it will make them laugh. Kudos to Kate Long!”
Sarah Salway, author of The ABCs of Love
The Bad Mother's Handbook - in Portuguese
“Lots of cranky and skilfully artless charm goes into pulling the inevitable heartstrings.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)
“…this funny, touching and utterly winning debut.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

At the end of 2004 QPD readers voted ‘The Bad Mother’s Handbook’ best debut novel of the year, and in April 2005 I was nominated for Best Newcomer at the British Book Awards, or Nibbies.