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The Mouseproof Kitchen - Q&A

(87 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 04-Feb-14 14:48:16

Those who were lucky enough to win copies of this month's book club choice should have received their books.

Author Saira Shah will be doing a Q&A later in the month - so do add your questions for her here. (For those who don't yet have a copy details about the book and how to get one here


Saira has now answered your questions - you can read what she has to say from here

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:54:12


Thanks so much for my free copy which I have just finished reading. Mixed feelings about it - part enjoyment, part irritation with some of the characters. I felt as if I was reading it as if I was watching a scary film through my hands, not really wanting to see what was happening but not being able to look away. Annoyed with Anna when she ran away and got on a flight back to England (How did she have here passport with her? It seemed to be a spur-of -the-moment decision!)

I can’t watch those films either - sorry my book made you feel that way.
Yes – good point about the passport. Actually, I just didn’t think of that! But in France you are legally obliged to carry ID (though I never do) so perhaps she would have had it on her as she is more law-abiding than me...Seriously though, I needed Anna to betray Freya - spectacularly. She was absolutely due for a breakdown. In real life I remember snapping a pencil in a meeting with social services and shouting: “I’m going to snap, like this pencil!” I actually had a little in reserve – but it set me wondering what snapping would look like. That was it.

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:55:04


I am really enjoying this book,apart from being annoyed at Tobias. I think knowing the author had much the same experiences gives the story more authenticity. No one knows how they would react if they were faced with a baby with severe disabilities, I think also if you're told your child may have a shorted life you would be scared to love her and try to protect your heart.
As for the comment about the French respite in the author's real life situation,I think that was very hurtful. A full time carer needs respite if only to keep themselves sane and come back from it refreshed ready to carry on. I can only think you have no idea about children with special needs.
I'd like to ask the author if she plans to carry on writing more books and how much does she miss the adrenalin rush she must have had from making documentaries in dangerous places.

Maybe my kind publishers subbed the original comment about respite out! Thanks anyway.

Yes, I’m beginning another novel now. I’m delighted to live in a world with far less adrenalin. Actually, that’s what our move to France was about.

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:56:21


I'm finding The Mouseproof Kitchen very enjoyable and well-written, if upsetting at times. I'm having to suspend my disbelief rather a lot - surely nobody would even consider a move into that wreck of a house with a vulnerable baby with such severe disabilities, and would the social services of any country in Europe actually allow it? No water supply, no cooking facilities, no proper sewage system, rats (let alone so far from family and friends and with an absolute pig of a husband)??!! But hey-ho, it's fiction, and not a biography.

My question to Saira would be - you say in your interview in the Telegraph that your mother is actually a lot less conventional than Anna’s eccentric mother, Amelia. confused I'm not halfway through the book yet, but Amelia seems like a complete fruitcake to me. Please tell us more about your mother - she must be quite a character! grin

Ha ha – that bit isn’t fiction. We really did move to a wreck of a house with a disabled baby. In our case we’ d already bought the house. But three weeks after Ailsa was born we took her to Appleby horse fair and bought a gypsy waggon. Which goes to show that you do go slightly mad things when life goes a bit potty on you. That’s part of what the book is about. And yup, there’s no law in Europe against living in a house without mains water – you just have to install a filter system. (If anybody would like to buy a gypsy waggon, please get in touch.)

In answer to your question: My mother was an amazing character. Perhaps she’ll be the subject of a book herself one day. Amelia is eccentric, but not at all in the same way as her.

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:57:43


I have really enjoyed this wonderful book and found myself really caring about all the characters although Tobias took a bit of effort!! I think Anna's controlled neglect of Freya was necessary for the story to have direction and I found it easy to empathise with her frustrated maternal instincts being channelled into cooking, cleaning and organising the domestic front.

Saira, As Anna seemed to live her life quite recklessly (not using contraception) and despite the exhausting routine of Freya's care needs, why did you decide to end her second pregnancy in a miscarriage even though it was not a result of her one night stand with Julien?

The link with Rose, her recipes and role in WW2 reminded me a little of Joanne Harris' Five Quarters Of The Orange.

I like ‘controlled neglect’ – thanks for understanding that part.

And good question. I needed her to fully discover her love for Freya before she had another child.

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:58:21


I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Mouseproof Kitchen and enjoyed reading it very much. I did find it puzzling why a couple with a newborn disabled daughter would subject themselves to life in such a rundown house, and felt myself feeling quite annoyed with Tobias at times, for not pulling his weight, but on the whole, an interesting and emotional read. I would like to ask Saira if there any plans for a follow-up book?

Maybe one day I’ll write a sequel – but a long time in the future. It would be fun to see what happens to them in ten years, wouldn’t it?

SairaShah Mon 24-Feb-14 11:58:48


Thank you so much for my copy of The Mouseproof Kitchen,Do you think Saria that Anna & Tobias would have received the same kind of help from friends locally as they did from Gustav,Kerim & Lizzy if they had not moved to France ? I thought the discription of Ludovic's emotions when he and Therese had their baby very emotional indeed so well written.
I will never look at Parmesan in the same way again after the discription of how to rid ones house of rats (page 207).
Excellent book really enjoyed it thanks so much once again.

I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I think their experience is particularly rural. I’m sure you’d find the same in rural Britain – but you might feel more isolated in a big town.

linkappa Thu 27-Feb-14 14:25:56

Thanks for my copy, it was a thought provoking read which I enjoyed and didn't at the same time if that makes sense. I know it's a novel but at times I found it so unrealistic that I wasn't sure that I would finish reading it. I wanted to shake both Anna and Tobias at times for the way they behaved.

It was definitely worth reading although it was a very different type of book to what i usually read.

Maggiemaybe Thu 27-Feb-14 23:26:40

Could I just say thank you to Saira for the very full reply to my question? I must say I'm surprised to hear just how much of the book was fact, not fiction, and have to admire Saira's courage in taking life by the horns as she so obviously does! I'll definitely be looking out for the next book.

celebgran Sun 02-Mar-14 23:19:59

Thank you very much for sending me copy imam really enjoying it, sadly did not read it in time for the questions!

So enjoying it now! Verynaddicitive.

Hutch2 Wed 05-Mar-14 14:16:10

Thank you for my free copy of The Mouseproof Kitchen;I have just finished reading it.
I found the story utterly engaging and I did feel as if I was there watching their lives unfold. The story was easy to follow and the different characters helped you go through a range of emotions which were at times uncomfortable, but that's life for you.

I do hope Saira writes a sequel to this as I would love to see how their lives develop. Please pass on my thanks and appreciation for a beautiful story!

Andrews Thu 27-Mar-14 14:31:44

Thank you for my copy of this book. What a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings ran through me as I read the book. It was a compelling read, and very thought-provoking. What would I have done in similar circumstances? And how would I cope with the rats?
A fabulous book, and one which I shall recommend to friends.