A Novel about Surrogacy

The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy that Ruth Rendell published as Barbara Vine came out in 1998. I don’t believe since then anybody has written in such a nuanced and profound way about surrogacy, even though it’s obviously not called that in the novel.

The man in The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy doesn’t push his children’s mother physically out of their lives. She lives with them and nobody doubts her rights as a mother. But he pushes her out emotionally. And even though he adores the kids and is the absolute best father anybody can imagine, the daughters grow up to become profoundly damaged, miserable women. It’s both parents together and the love between them that creates happy, healthy children. Surrogacy, even in the mild form described in the novel, is poisonous. The girls’ mother is pushed aside as unimportant and annoying. As a result, one of the daughters becomes a perpetual child, unable to grow into a woman, while the other finds joy in letting a man degrade her sexually.

The novel offers some hope in that at least the daughters know their mother and start repairing their relationship after the overbearing father dies.

It’s a very good novel.

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