Cover image for Life isn't all ha ha hee hee
Life isn't all ha ha hee hee
Syal, Meera.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2000.

Physical Description:
331 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in the United Kindgom by Doubleday ... 1999"--T.p. verso.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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At home, Meera Syal's women "walk in small steps, talk in sweet tones, pour dainty cupfuls, and refill plates in the shake of a dupatta," but at work, they "kick ass across courtrooms and computer screens." In a book somewhere between Waiting to Exhale and Bridget Jones's Diary , Syal has created an indelible portrait of a close-knit group of Indian women living in London. Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee is the story of Chila, a nice Punjabi girl married to the urbane Deepak, and her two childhood confidants: Sunita, the former activist law student, now an overweight, depressed housewife and mother; and the chic, beautiful Tania, who has rejected marriage in favor of a high-powered career in television and life in a trendy apartment with her English boyfriend. This hilariously scathing, no-holds-barred novel from the award-winning author of Anita and Me describes what happens when one of them makes a documentary, starring the other two, about contemporary urban Indian life.

Author Notes

Meera Syal, a British-born Indian, is a writer and actress who is a familiar face on British TV. She has written a number of successful TV and film scripts, including Bhaji on the Beach and the multi-award-winning My Sister Wife , in which she also starred. She co-writes and stars in the British hit comedy series Goodness Gracious Me , which was nominated for an international Emmy and was awarded the MBE in 1998. She also performed in the star-studded London production of The Vagina Monologues . Her first novel, Anita and Me , won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize. She lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Three women, close friends, have braided lives in this ripe story: gorgeous Tania, whose wit and steely reserve serve her well in her media career; gentle, openhearted Chila, for whom niceness is a way of life; and Sunita, who has gone from feminist activist to overweight housewife in a breath. Although the tropes of boyfriends, husbands, and yammering parents and the intense demands of children are familiar, the subject and setting--Indian-Brit families in contemporary England--offers a rich ethnic twist. Tania makes a documentary based on her friends' lives. The truths she reveals there, in the hidden gestures and smoothed-over anguish, explode their close relationships and expose the stress fractures in the two marriages and in Tania's relationship with her English boyfriend. The scene where Sunita's husband drinks himself into a stupor while secretly reading her annotations to a book on Indian sexuality is hilarious and deeply discomfiting. A fine read with its pop-culture references and unexpectedly graceful language, redolent of Indian spices and touchstones. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

The multitalented Syal, an award-winning TV/screenwriter and U.K. actress, tells a compassionate, resonant tale of culture clash, Indian identity and friendship in her smoothly executed second novel (her first, Anita and Me, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize). With spot-on cinematic sensibility and laugh-out-loud dialogue, Syal charts the lives of three 30-something Indian women, friends since childhood, living in contemporary London. Sunita, a former activist law student, is a depressed, overweight housewife and mother of two, and Tania has rejected the traditional arranged marriage for a high-powered career in TV, an apartment in trendy Soho and a Caucasian live-in boyfriend. Chila, whom the other two consider simple, is marrying Deepak, "bagging not only a groom with his own teeth, hair, degree and house, but the most eligible bachelor within a 20-mile radius." All three women struggle with living in two cultures: the Indian world in which a woman's worth is largely measured by her husband's stature, and modern British culture, where self-realization and careerism dominate. Told from alternating points of view, the novel describes, with clarity and resonance, the cultural collision that occurs when Tania makes a brash documentary on relationships, using her friends as subjects and presenting them in an unflattering light. After an incident between Tania and Deepak at the screening inflames the situation, the trio's lifelong friendship is further imperiled. Syal handles many serious issues, including a death, a birth, a kidnapping and an extramarital affair or two, with wit and precision. A kind of Bridget Jones' Diary meets The Buddha of Suburbia, the novel poignantly captures the core of its characters with lusty brio and keen intelligence. 5-city author tour. (June) FYI: Syal's film and TV scripts include Bhaji on the Beach and My Sister Wife. She co-writes and stars in the British hit comedy series Goodness Gracious Me, which last year was nominated for an International Emmy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This second novel from Syal (Anita and Me), a successful writer for film and television, is a humor-filled yet startling account of a trio of South Asian women in London, childhood friends who continue to depend upon one another in adulthood. A documentary featuring their "happy" marriages reveals truths that they are not prepared to face, challenging the foundation of their long friendships. Syal's comedic talent is obvious, as is her capacity (as a British-born Indian) to look honestly at urban Indian life and comment on how second-generation Indians in London cope with the challenge of dual cultures. Her novel is refreshing in that it does not exoticize Indian life or present stereotypes of Indian women. Recommended for major public libraries, especially those serving diverse, multicultural populations; libraries with women's collections will also want this book as an example of the new writing emerging from women of color.DZaheera Jiwaji, Edmonton, Alberta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.