Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kent Haruf Our Souls at Noght; REVIEWS

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kent Haruf Our Souls at Noght; REVIEWS

Article excerpt

OUR SOULS AT NIGHT by Kent Haruf Publisher Picador Priced PS12.99 (ebook PS6.47) KENT Haruf's final novel Our Souls at Night, completed before he died in November last year, is a beautifully poignant swansong for this much-loved American writer.

Neighbours Addie Moore and Louis Waters, both widowed and in their twilight years, have been alone for some time and Addie for one would like some companionship, someone to talk to at night, to overcome the stifling loneliness and isolation of later life, and Louis agrees.

So the two begin a wonderfully pure friendship that gives them both something to treasure when they thought it was too late. Sharing their past and present, the future suddenly doesn't look so daunting, but both of them know too that it can't be taken for granted.

Tender and heartfelt, this is a delicately bittersweet novel, compounded by the very palpable sense Haruf seems to be aware that this is farewell. And what a beautiful farewell it is.

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THE HOUSE OF HIDDEN MOTHERS by Meera Syal Publisher Doubleday Priced PS14.99 (ebook PS9.02) MEERA Syal's third novel addresses the topical themes of late parenthood, which Syal has herself experienced, and surrogacy, which she has not.

It centres on Shyama, aged 44, a British Indian woman who yearns for a child with her partner Toby, who is 10 years her junior.

They've tried IVF but were unsuccessful, so they pursue the surrogacy route, which takes them to India and its unregulated clinics full of surrogates who see the lucrative procedure as their passport out of poverty.

Mala, a young woman living in New Delhi, becomes the couple's surrogate mother, but when the couple discover that she has an abusive husband they decide they must bring her back to the UK for the duration of her pregnancy, a decision which ultimately has life-changing consequences for all three of them.

Meanwhile, Shyama's 19-year-old daughter Tara from her previous marriage shows total disdain for what her mother is doing but has her own trauma to deal with when she is raped by a fellow student but doesn't report it.

Beautifully written, Syal's detail of the cultural divides between Indian generations, the quirks, customs, traditions and attitudes as well as the lifestyle in both India and in Britain, can only come from one who has been immersed in both cultures.

She's shown it humorously in shows like Goodness Gracious Me, but paints a much more serious picture in this novel, which also explores the sexual abuse of women, with references to the Delhi bus rape in 2012.

Raising important questions about surrogacy from both sides, Syal remains unbiased, weaving the moral and emotional arguments seamlessly into the storyline and looks at the prejudices faced by women who want children in later life.

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