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The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal

(125 Posts)
whenim64 Fri 22-May-15 10:03:39

Thanks GNHQ. My copy has just arrived and it looks like a good, meaty book.

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:44:32


I really enjoyed reading this book.
It was very descriptive and infomative about life in India.
I would like to ask meera if she found the research for the book difficult, as surrogacy is a very private subject and how easy was it to get information on family life in India.
Thank you Gransnet for a great read

It's surprising how much information is actually available on the net about surrogacy in India and I think this is because most of its users are from outside of India. Much of the research and in fact in some cases, the deal is done without ever visiting India. It can be done over the internet and over the phone. So I managed to get a fair amount of research done that way, however I also got to know a couple who have had two children via Indian surrogates, who were invaluable in giving me the inside story and what an emotional, difficult process it can be. I have acknowledged them at the end of the book, but I'm not able to reveal their names as there are some people in their families who do not know about the surrogacy. This does give you an indication of how, for some people, it is still taboo.

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:46:05


I loved this book and thought both the characters and the dialogue would translate very easily to a screen version.

I would have liked a list of Hindi words at the end so I could be sure what they mean and wonder if Meera had considered doing this?

Hello, I know you and others have asked this. Thank you for pointing this out. I think it's something I should definitely think about including in the paperback.

grannyactivist Wed 24-Jun-15 13:47:35

I'm so glad the film rights have been bought - it will make a grand film as there are such strong themes in the book. 20th century ethics are full of grey areas and your book tackles the themes very well I thought. smile

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:52:05


I really enjoyed The House of Hidden Mothers especially the insight into Indian culture and political issues. There's a lot going on in the book and I think I will read it again so I can pay more attention to Shyama's parents' struggle to repossess their retirement property in Delhi. I found I was so absorbed in the surrogacy plot I was tempted to skim over that part of the story although it played a necessary part in the conclusion.

I liked the power shift between the two women and Tara's 'coming of age'. The ending didn't surprise me although it did seem a bit too neat and tidy.

I'd like to ask Meera, Do you see your novel playing a part in raising awareness of couples seeking surrogate mothers abroad and are India's surrogacy laws particulary lax compared with other countries which could lead to it being regarded as just another outsourced industry?

Merlotgran, that is a really interesting question. I think for people seeking surrogates I'm not telling them anything new, because it's so well known that India is the cheapest place to go, and maybe more importantly because of its as yet unregulated industry, there is no legal claim on any child born from the surrogate mother, whereas I believe this is a very different situation in some other countries. You talk about it being regarded as an outsourced industry - I think its opponents and critics already regard it as that and there have been many discussions about possible exploitation of surrogate mothers and the lack of protection they are offered by some clinics. However, I believe there's a bill being discussed in the Indian parliament (in fact it may have already gone through) which plans to implement strict regulations. One of which, is that surrogacy will only be offered to heterosexual couples who have been married two years. This will undoubtedly profoundly change the surrogacy industry and the people who are able to use it. Some people will welcome this as a long overdue reform of what, at the moment, is an open market. other people will say that it's draconian and excludes many genuine couples who are desperate for a child. Like I said, it's such a complex, emotive area and it really does depend on where you're standing as to whether you welcome the changes or are dismayed by them.

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:55:36


Just finished this book. A really good read, Meera really brought alive the problems faced by women in India and, indeed, other countries, whilst weaving a fascinating, thought provoking tale. I shall look for her other books now. Does Meera visit India often and have extended family there. Also do the ones in India treat her family in a similar manner to the book?

Hello mbody, yes I have a lot of family still in India - mainly in the north and Delhi in particular - and I've been going around every two years but I feel it needs to be more now. Every time I go back, things have changed so quickly I don't feel I'm keeping up. Most of my family are wonderful, however, as I mentioned before, we did have a property dispute which unfortunately has split one branch of the family completely and that makes us all very sad. It's truly depressing what people will do for money, isn't it?

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:57:03


Thank you for the book, I really enjoyed reading it, the insight into the culture in India was very interesting and I now feel I want to know more.
There were small sections that didn't hold my attention but that may be down to me rather than the writing.

There is a lot of detail in this book and I would like to ask Meera how long did it take to write and research and what made you write a book on this subject?

Hi emmasnan, I think I've answered the question about why I wanted to write about surrogacy, but I'd say about 6 months research and about a year to write the book, although I was doing other things at the same time. I did take 6 months off to write the bulk of the book.

MeeraSyal Wed 24-Jun-15 13:58:33

A huge thank you to all of you lovely gransnetters for taking the time to read the book and for your fantastic feedback. I am not a grandma yet, but my God I'm working on it! Have a lovely summer!

LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 24-Jun-15 14:09:31

A huge thank you to Meera for coming in - such a pleasure! If you'd like to catch up with her on Twitter, you can find her at @MeeraSyal

Riverwalk Wed 24-Jun-15 14:31:30

I didn't receive the book but it does sound an interesting read.

I just wanted to say that Meera's detailed and considered answers have set a record for such Q&A sessions on GN - often authors' answers are curt and to the point and give the impression that they'd rather be elsewhere!

I'm off to buy the book. smile

merlotgran Wed 24-Jun-15 16:25:32

Talking of answers to our questions from authors.....Have I missed the feedback from Wendy Cope and Carys Bray?

I'd forgotten all about them until I realised Meera Syal had answered PDQ.

Elrel Thu 25-Jun-15 19:44:41

I had my son at 36, my hair started to go grey in my 40s. As we chose decorations for his 11th birthday party I was taken aback to be addressed by the man behind the counter as 'nan'!

EllenMay Thu 25-Jun-15 21:42:33

I would like to echo Riverwalk's comments about Meera's answers to our questions - thank you Meera for taking the time to provide detailed and interesting responses.

Merlotgran - Wendy Cope's responses were brief, curt and very disappointing.

EastEndGranny Fri 26-Jun-15 09:21:40

Sorry to be late in responding but have been away. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed Meera's book. Thank you for sending it to me.

Funnygran Fri 26-Jun-15 09:22:26

Loved reading Meera's responses. As someone said, so detailed and interesting. I haven't managed to finish it as have had a busy few weeks so have decided to save it for a holiday read and will then pass it on to my daughter. But thank you GN for a great book!

gillybob Fri 26-Jun-15 10:24:48

I have literally just finished the book and I'm gutted to have missed the webchat with Meera.

I would just like to say (better late than never) how much I loved the book although I was quite saddened by the ending. I think perhaps "innocent" Mala knew what she was up to all along.

Grannyknot Fri 26-Jun-15 10:52:42

I also missed Meera's webchat but wanted to say that her warmth shines through in her answers. I watched The Brink last night and could say with some authority "Meera says that she is only 7 years older than the actor who plays her son!" smile

I also wanted to add - for those who thought the property legal wrangle was OTT, I disagree, in fact it sounded extremely authentic to me, perhaps it had something to do with my daughter having bought a maisonette from a South Indian man whose relatives were tenants in it, and it has taken seven months to get the tenants out so that they could complete (and daughter and husband has been in our spare room all that time ...!)

It's interesting, these matters that are common knowledge within certain cultural groups but a mystery to the native inhabitants smile I worked with several West Indian women who described pretty much the same system, that the "old folk" lived here all their lives but had bought homes on the islands for when they retire because they "can't stand the cold" until they "got sick" and would then be fetched to return to the UK and family here. And before anyone thinks that's a criticism, it's not, it's simply a matter of fact.

Maggiemaybe Fri 26-Jun-15 22:21:24

What an interesting Q & A, and what a lovely lady. smile

Purpledaffodil Fri 26-Jun-15 22:38:48

Have just finished this lovely book as it was just too big and heavy to take on holiday. I am really sad to have missed Meera's webchat because I enjoyed the novel immensely, the characters were well drawn and shied away from the stereotypical without being too unbelievable. I too knew nothing about the Indian surrogacy "industry" or the difficult plight of NRIs whose property is at risk from relatives and found both made interesting, if harrowing reading.
I am passing my copy on to a friend in a same sex marriage who has considered, but rejected surrogacy as an option. Will be interesting to hear his response! Thanks Gransnet and Meera Syal for a great book.

GrannyGlyn Sat 27-Jun-15 05:20:05

Just finished this wonderful book. I have been under the weather and had to leave it in the middle. I picked it up again after reading Meera's Q and As yesterday and as I couldn't sleep last night and it kept me company.
Enough about me!

I love Meera's writing style. I found it to be so descriptive that I could "see" the characters as if it were a tv mini series.
I sort of guessed the outcome but felt it was right thing for both Shyama, Toby and Mala.

I am so glad that it is being taken forward to a wider audience. Congratulations Meera!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 30-Jun-15 10:48:41


Talking of answers to our questions from authors.....Have I missed the feedback from Wendy Cope and Carys Bray?

I'd forgotten all about them until I realised Meera Syal had answered PDQ.

Just putting Cary's answers up now

Nanacat13 Tue 07-Jul-15 08:10:50

I have almost finished reading this very entertaining book. I had to interrupt it midway due to the early arrival of GC number five! I think I've worked out the ending but am resisting taking a peek..

Like others Gnetters, I should have liked a glossary of Hindi words.

All in all a very good read that raises serious issues, and one that I would recommend. Thank you Gransnet!

milliemoon1 Wed 08-Jul-15 22:27:08

I enjoyed the book, I was really intrigued by the relationship between Shyama and Tara. There were many themes and issues raised in the book, I thought it was very well written

lettie Mon 13-Jul-15 15:07:46

I would have loved to ask Meera which elements of the story were there from the beginning and which came to her as she wrote, but I missed Meera's webchat, as I was away. The various characters' stories weaved in and out of one another - I found Meera's writing very skilful (I shouldn't really have been surprised, as I know she is a skilled and intelligent (and very entertaining) actor, but those skills don't necessarily translate into good writing). I'd not read any of her books but I will certainly seek them out now.

I did find Tara's story-line a bit contrived at first, especially when she goes to Delhi, but I forgave it all as including Tara's story allows Meera to refer to Nirbhaya, which she does with such a light and tender touch.

I agree with gma that this is a very visual book, and ideal for the screen.

My favourite sentence:

'It was that quiet time of the day when the sun was set to a gentle simmer as the sky closed like a lid.'

You can see the sizzle and hear that lid snapping shut - loved it!

The House of Hidden Mothers tackles huge issues in a very accessible way. Thanks Meera, and thanks to Gransnet for such a good read.

Boonbetty Fri 24-Jul-15 21:35:34

Took this book with me to read on holiday and couldn't put it down. It raised some interesting questions about the rights and wrongs of surrogacy. The characters were believable and I could empathise with them all.