Books Read in 2022 – 3. Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee – Meera Syal

Genre: Chick lit, Indian Lit, Family

Narrative Style: First person and third person sections from various points of view.

Rating: 4/5

Published: 1999

Format: Paperback

Synposis: Chila, Sunita and Tania have been friends since school. Now, Tania is a documentary maker, Sunita is married with two children and Chila is about to marry Deepak. They are as close ever until Tania makes a documentary about modern Indian life staring Chila and Sunita and their friendship falls apart.

Time on shelf: This was inherited from my husband’s aunt, six years ago. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages but it kept getting overtaken by newer purchases.

This book was largely as I expected it would be. Syal paints a clear picture of what it is like to be Indian in Britain at the end of the twentieth century. It is well-observed, at least as far as the events and emotions generated by them go. The prose is easy to read and the plot was easy to follow. For all that, at times it annoyed me.

The main issue I had with this novel was the switching between viewpoints. I don’t mind multiple narrators and, in fact, the first person sections were largely successful. When in third person mode, however, Syal tended to jump between points of view quickly – often after only a paragraph or two – and I found that a little disorientating. It didn’t help further the plot, just made it seem chaotic.

The characters seemed a little one dimensional at times and sometimes slipped into stereotype. The men existed merely as foils to the women and were little developed beyond that. I did enjoy the difference between generations and the way the three women tried to live up to their parents expectations while also fulfilling their own wishes. However, I found Chila’s naivety irritating and unbelievable and Tania remarkably insensitive. Sunita was probably the most favourably drawn but even then I wasn’t 100 percent convinced by her transformation from mother to fun-loving feminist.

Having said that, I did enjoy reading it. At times, it was laugh out loud funny, at others it was heartbreakingly sad. I’m not a big fan of chick-lit so, perhaps inevitably, it was never going to be the perfect read for me. It did keep me gripped but I wished that Syal had settled for fewer point of view changes.

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