Back in 2021, Indian author Bhavika Govil was the joint winner of the Pontas & JJ Bola Emerging Writers Prize. We are delighted to share that, two years later, Bhavika Govil has completed her debut novel The Book of Ma and English rights for the Indian subcontinent have been acquired by Rahul Soni at HarperCollins India, in an exclusive submission, for publication in mid-2025.
World English rights (excl. the Indian subcontinent) are currently available, as well as all translation and film & TV rights.
The Book of Ma is a timely, confident, lyrical debut which explores the dark underbelly of motherhood and the constant push and pull of maternal instinct. It is a story of love in all its terrible, exhilarating forms—from the joyful poetry of sibling relationships to the aching torment of forbidden desire. It is a story of how a family grows around each other’s secrets and the ways in which grief—and even love itself—can ultimately suffocate us.
The novel follows a family of three: Ma, Mira and Ashu. It had always been like that, with Ashu’s name trailing behind just like he did in real life. They sing Simon and Garfunkel songs together as they drive around in Ma’s sun-yellow car. They watch TV together on the sofa. They holiday on a mango farm once a year. And, on monsoon days, within their damp, one-bedroom flat in a small city outside of Delhi, they are coiled together, protective of one another, glued to each other’s side.
But despite this togetherness, each is wrapped in their own ecosystem of loneliness. As one long, hot summer unfolds, secrets bloom and swell in the sultry heat as new people enter their lives. Ashu, at fourteen, has met his first love, although society—and the boy’s parents—seem determined to keep them apart. Imaginative eight-year-old Mira, who Ma says was born with a question mark etched on her face, is desperate for a secret of her own until the coach at the local swimming pool grants her wish in the worst way possible. And, as the summer ripens softly like an old peach, it turns out that the biggest secret of them all was right beside them all along, carefully wrapped up in memory and hidden in the pages of Ma’s old journal.
Bhavika Govil was born in New Delhi, India. She is a writer and journalist with a Master’s in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University of Edinburgh. Her short story ‘Eggs keep falling from the fourth floor’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize and was later included in A Case of Indian Marvels, the first major anthology of India’s most exciting new writers, edited by David Davidar. She also won the Bound Short Story Prize 2019 for her story ‘Curdled’, and was longlisted for the Toto Awards for Creative Writing in English from 2021 to 2023. Her story ‘Naan Bread’ was mentioned as a Notable Contender for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2020. Her work has been published in Wasafiri, Extra Teeth, Gutter, Hillfire Anthology and From Arthur’s Sea, and she has written for Vogue, Outlook Traveller, Little Black Book and The New Indian Express. She has performed her work at numerous festivals including the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Paisley Book Fair and Push the Boat Out Festival. The Book of Ma, her debut novel, was a finalist for the DHA New Writers’ Open Week and won the 2021 Pontas & JJ Bola Emerging Writers Prize. Bhavika Govil divides her time between London and New Delhi.
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