The House of Hidden Mothers [Download Summary] by Meera Syal

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Ped in an oppressive marriage in a small Indian town from which she's desperate to escape But as the pregnancy progresses they discover that their simple arrangement may be far complicated than it seemsIn The House of Hidden Mothers Meera Syal an acclaimed British actress and accomplished novelist takes on the timely but underexplored issue of India's booming surrogacy industry Western couples pay a young woman to have their child and then fly home with a. For my full review see here read and loved Anita and Me earlier this year I was intrigued to see her third novel was being released and then doubly excited to receive a review copy from Netgalley Meera Syal is one of those all round amazing people who seem to excel at everything they set their hands to which would be irritating if she was not so generally awesome with it Novelist stand up actress playwright social commentator she is a woman of many many talents The House of Hidden Mothers is a novel written with passion and intelligence and centres on some very timely subject matter commercial surrogacy and the situation of women in twenty first century India It lacks the focus that made Anita and Me such a classic but still feels like an important novel raising issues that need to be discussedThe main character is Shyama mid 40s divorced Anglo Indian with an emphasis on the Anglo She has a nineteen year old daughter Tara a thirty year old partner Toby and she runs a thriving salon From the very beginning it was almost distractingly clear that it in the inevitable adaptation Shyama will be played by Syal The novel opens with her visiting an expensive clinic to be told once and for all that she will never conceive or carry the longed for child she so craves After some discussion she and Toby decide to resort to surrogacy with their destination being India recent surrogacy capital of the world until January 2013 when new laws were put in place In effect Shyama is making the return journey pilgrimage that her parents made decades previously they went to Britain to find a new life Shyama returns to find a babyShe shares the narrative with Mala a newly married young woman whose husband has been looking at her strangely A woman in the village had left while heavily pregnant and returned with no baby but with a host of electrical goods the rewards for commercial surrogacy As Mala finds herself press ganged by her husband into doing the same thing the two storylines meet and converge The House of Hidden Mothers is ambitious in its range and scope attempting to offer a commentary on the state of India as a nation as well as the position of women within the world as a wholeSurrogacy is a very emotive issue and has the power to grab headlines whenever things go wrong Like Ian McEwan s The Children Act real life cases are referenced incidents of babies abandoned by parents who changed their minds the fertility doctor notes that couples often think that having the child will fix everything and when the goal is reached the blemishes in the relationship are laid bare Dr Passi recalls with distaste being approached by several couples who viewed surrogacy as a labour saving device high flying executives who preferred to out source their gestation Toby and Shyama meet several couples who rave about how Dr Passi is the very best and that nothing goes wrong on her watch which indicates to the reader that of course events are not about to run smoothlyThat being said there are no villains here Dr Passi is no unscrupulous charlatan she has business concerns but is also determined to put her children through medical school and is running to a deadline when regulations will tighten around commercial surrogacy in India She is no ruthless opportunist and Syal leaves her motivations intriguingly fuzzy The scene where she comforts a tearful surrogate mother who has gotten cold feet over giving up the baby she is carrying really stuck in my mind as Dr Passi used no threats but simply explained gently how very difficult it would be for the woman to walk out of the clinic with the child Huge fees would need to be repaid contracts broken and at the end of the day the woman would need to explain a changeling child in a remote rural village I was reminded of Family Secrets how unmarried mothers were pressured into giving up their babies even though there was no legal reuirement for them to do so simply by the force of persuasion and official looking forms It sat uncomfortably with me that the clinic deliberately used women from rural villages no doubt because those were the only ones willing to put their bodies through that but also because they were likely to be uneducated and so have no methods of redress The world has moved on since those days but The House of Hidden Mothers makes one wonder if perhaps we are moving a little too close to the world of The Handmaid s Tale for comfortSyal contrasts the way in which Shyama the beauty therapist holds off the exterior signs of aging but is unable to stave off what is going on internally In an age where you could redefine ageing and cougar your way around town with a wrinkle free smile inside you were not as old as you felt but as old as you actually were Her bleary cynicism is the source for a good deal of the humour but she still has the face the judgment of friends who wonder if she wants another child in order to make up for the mistakes she made with her daughter Tara Generational tensions abound with Shyama s parents raising their eyebrows gently at their daughter s decision and Tara huffing heavily at the other end of the age spectrum I was a teenager when my own mother remarried and I feel that Syal captured something of the disorientation which comes with the situation At the same time though observing Tara s hormonal behaviour I felt like referring her to Anne Fine s Step By Wicked Step that wonderful manual of How To Behave In A Stepfamily specifically the chapter Green Pyjamas aka Stepfamilies 101 Mind Your MannersTara was the character who developed the most over the course of the novel but she was problematic for me We saw her go from sulky and sullen sitting on the sofa to courageous crusader and while there were obvious points which prompted this she ended up feeling like too much of a proxy for Syal to be convincing Far effective were the uiet sadnesses of Prem and Sita Shyama s parents who find themselves locked in a Jarndyce and Jarndyce style court battle to regain control of their Delhi based flat which has been illegally occupied by their nephew s family for nearly a decade and a half Prem is broken hearted to be so betrayed by the son of his favourite brother still so since said brother refuses to intervene but Prem stubbornly believes that right will win out eventually by contrast Sita is seethes silently disgusted by the corruption within her birth country and determined to regain their property by fair means or foulThe final chapters weave in the horrific Delhi bus rape of December 2012 which still makes me want to cry nearly three years on Indian law prevents the publication of the names of rape victims so Syal uses the name widely used by the press at the time Nirbhaya which means fearless Tara and Shyama find themselves in Delhi at the time of the crime and are swept up in the protests I found myself wondering if Meera Syal had written The House of Hidden Mothers to voice her opinion on the case since her fury is obvious although elouently written The horrific details of Nirbhaya s injuries the almost incredibly ignorant and offensive opinions voiced by men on how the attack was actually her own fault Syal is appalled by her mother country This is the first of her novels to take place in India and we feel her affection for it behind all of the disappointment but she knows it well enough to see to the truth Interestingly when one of the characters visits a women s rape crisis centre they are warned off trying to solve rape as a westerner a telling aside from Syal as author she can fix nothing in this book she can only observe and grieve for Nirbhaya and all like herOn the surface this could have been just a standard middle aged woman finds happiness story but The House of Hidden Mothers has far to say for itself With so many competing voices Toby the kindly farm labourer Mala the village girl with dreams Shyama the would be second time Mum Tara the lost girl Prem the honourable man Sita the tiger mother it is not surprising that it did not have the same impact as Anita and Me but yet it was still highly effective and spoke for women who have no way of speaking for themselves

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The House of Hidden Mothers

Baby an easy narrative that ignores the complex emotions involved in carrying a child Syal turns this phenomenon into a compelling thoughtful novel already hailed in the UK as rumbustious confrontational and ultimately heartbreaking Turns the standard British Asian displacement narrative on its head The GuardianCompulsively readable and with a winning voice The House of Hidden Mothers deftly explores subjects of age class and the divide between East and We. Reading this so soon after Amulya Malladi s A House for Happy Mothers it s hard not to compare the two While I loved the mother in Malladi s book the mother in this book was insufferable not the surrogates but the mothers paying the surrogates

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Shyama a forty eight year old London divorcée already has an unruly teenage daughter but that doesn't stop her and her younger lover Toby from wanting a child together Their relationship may look like a cliché but despite the news from her doctor that she no longer has any viable eggs Shyama's not ready to give up on their dream of having a baby So they decide to find an Indian surrogate to carry their child which is how they meet Mala a young woman trap. This is a read that at times is uite magnificent It is a story that attempts to blow the doors off the myth that is traditional Indian life a story of Indian life love and surrogacyThere are two women at the heart of this story Shyama is in her mid 40s a divorced single parent a business woman with bright red streaks in her hair and a new lover Toby who is white and 10 years younger than her As you can imagine there have been times when she has not been afraid to go against the traditional view of how an Indian woman should behave Yet at heart she still feels the ties to India and her family with her parents living at the end of the gardenMala is a young village girl living in poverty At the start of the read she considers herself lucky to have an indoor tap in her home However when her husband comes to her with a plan to earn some money she soon realises that the means to transform her life forever are within her graspI really liked the way the author told this story about surrogacy in India I didn t realise before I read this book that India is the surrogacy capital of the world and I imagine that not many people realise that unless they have a specific need to know it As with other issues in the story the author weaves all the background information into the story in a very natural way I felt I was learning without being info dumped uponIt is a story that really hammers home a message about the way in which women can be treated in India with the brutality violence and rapes including the murder of unwanted female babies There are some uite shocking moments here In addition there are the two subplots to do with Shayama s parents and their long running legal battle to claim back possession of their flat in Delhi as well as that to do with Tara Shyama s daughter There were the odd moments when I felt that these subplots took away from the main thrust of the book just a little bit but taken globally they do add to the whole feel of the story and it would be less of a read without themThe characters are really well created With the story moving uite slowly at first with the introductions I really felt that I was getting to know them They felt very real and believable I was thinking about them when I wasn t reading about them In all it really is a wonderful read which at times will make you smile will shock you but will certainly keep you reading to find out what happens Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy


10 thoughts on “The House of Hidden Mothers

  1. says:

    The title of this book should have been Bad Things Happen Because they do one after another Shyama is a forty something divorcee trying for a baby with her younger and whiter boyfriend Toby With biology no longer on her side they travel to India to find a surrogate What happens when they meet this woman Mala makes up all the drama a

  2. says:

    This is a read that at times is uite magnificent It is a story that attempts to blow the doors off the myth that is “trad

  3. says:

    Very decent writing marred by a ridiculous twist and a reference to a historical event that couldn't have been out of place and jarring

  4. says:

    For my full review see here read and loved Anita and Me earlier this year I was intrigued to see her third novel was being released and then doubly excited to receive a review copy from Netgalley Meera Syal is one of those all round amazing people who seem to excel at everything they set their hands to which would be irritating if she was not so generally awesome with it Novelist stand up actress playwright social comme

  5. says:

    I LOVED this book The writing is beautiful and the story emotional funny engaging and heart rending Especially

  6. says:

    This is a tale of two very different women living in two very different societies In East London successful businesswoman Shyama has fallen for a younger man They want a child but she is now too old In India surrogacy is a booming business with life changing payments for village women with few if any other prospect of bettering themselves It's a very engaging fiction about the lives of women and the essential vileness of men at

  7. says:

    45 starsIt had begin with companies moving their call centres towards the rising sun so what was wrong with outso

  8. says:

    I was interested in reading largely because the author features on the TV show Loose Women and she is such a strong character fighting for what is right that I thought the book would have to be good I wasn't disappointed Even though the plot ending was predictable even without my bad habit of reading the ending early in th

  9. says:

    Reading this so soon after Amulya Malladi's A House for Happy Mothers it's hard not to compare the two While I loved the mother in Malladi's book the mother in this book was insufferable not the surrogates but the mothers paying the surrogates

  10. says:

    I would love to give this book a much lower rating simply because it made me SO angry particularly the ending But the writing was lovely the characters felt real and the story while difficult was worth reading

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