Nadya Suleman became America’s best known mom last month when she gave birth to octuplets delivered by a team of more than 40 medics. A few days later, it emerged Nadya, who lives with her parents, had six other children back home, and the ethics and practicalities of her situation have been widely debated ever since.
A book deal is almost certainly in the offing for Nadya but how has literature treated the phenomenon of exceptionally large families? Serious novelists, children’s authors and non-fiction writers have been drawn to this subject where meal times are always an event and the laundry never ends.
Check out our list of 10 books about large families where you will find rural poverty, death, a singing nun, some sleuths, a generation of political heavyweights and a nursery rhyme everyone knows.
Anyone who lived through the 1970s will have watched The Waltons and seen the adventures of those seven kids on the mountain. Published in 1961, this novel was the basis for that long-running TV series. Hamner grew up in rural Schuyler, a village in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Heart-warming trials and tribulations. It was also made into a 1963 movie with Henry Fonda.
Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, this novel features an Irish family with nine children. Veronica, the narrator, examines her family’s troubled past following the funeral of her alcoholic brother, Liam. Not many laughs but acclaimed by the critics.
Published in 1949, this memoir was written by the world’s most famous nun prior to Mother Teresa. She went on to become a baroness and her story became the legendary musical and movie, The Sound of Music. Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…. you know the rest.
The Glass family, where there are seven children, is frequently featured in Salinger’s writing including the novel Franny and Zooey, as well as short story collections of Nine Stories and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.
Published in 1948, this memoir tells the story of time and motion study and efficiency experts Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth, and their 12 children. It became a movie in 1950. The title refers to Frank’s jokey reply to the frequent questions about why he had so many kids. A sequel, Belles on Their Toes, was published in 1952.
Rose and Joe Kennedy Sr had nine children and, of course, their siblings formed the basis of America’s most powerful political family but how can one family be dogged by so much tragedy? Joseph Jr (killed in WW2), John (assassinated president), Rosemary (botched brain surgery), Kathleen (died in plane crash), Eunice, Patricia, Robert (assassinated), Jean and Edward.
Clymer, who died in 2001, was a writer of children's books and is best known for The Trolley Car Family, where the father loses his job at the struggling trolley car company. He ends up with his trolley and drives it into the country at the end of an old line where his large family begins a new life. Published in 1947.
Published in 1975, Bradon released the autobiographical book, Eight is Enough, which inspired a TV series of the same name starring Dick Van Patten. The book focused on his life as the father of eight children but the TV series had little in common with his writing.
A series of books published between 1953 and 1970, the cheerful Hollisters were a mystery-solving family of five children, their parents, a family of cats, and a dog. Jerry West is a pseudonym. The Happy Hollisters was based on Svenson's own real-life family of six children, who were raised in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
This famous British nursery rhyme tells of the old woman who “had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” The old woman could have been Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who had eight kids. Some people think it was King George himself, who was nicknamed “The Old Woman” while others argue it was Margery Buttwhistle, a prostitute, who apparently had many illegitimate children.