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Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal [in aOnline]

Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee HeeTo reveal that the theme song to Meera Syal’s novel, Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” might be giving too much of the story away. But then there are times when the familiar can be entertaining. Isn’t that why soap operas are endlessly popular? That the British-born, Indian-descended Syal herself is no stranger to soaps is abundantly clear in her writing; that the book has already been picked up for British television is no surprise. Syal herself is even set to star. Having written numerous television and film scripts, she knew just what she was doing when she wrote book #2.

Chila, Sunita, and Tania are life-long friends, and certainly their lives are a far cry from much ha ha hee hee-ing. While they have their occasional moments of delicious gossip and toothsome food, they also share enough tears of sorrow and anger. Best friends since grade school and now somewhere in their 30s, the three women’s lives have diverged tremendously and, in fact, have little in common today. It’s their shared past that keeps them together.

Life opens with Chila’s wedding, a glamorous shindig at which, judging by the sheer numbers, most of the Indian community of London’s East End have gathered to celebrate the surprising union. Deemed “slow,” and therefore unmarriageable, Chila, to everyone’s surprise and her own most of all, has managed to win Prince Charming – the handsome, wealthy, polished, and seemingly adoring Deepak. As they have for years, Sunita and Tania fret over the gentle, still child-like Chila … and again, as always, they pray for her safety. Still, Sunita, now an overweight mother of two who gave up a potential law career and struggles with her difficult therapist-in-training-husband, is envious. And Tania, the sleek, stunning, I-will-never-have-children filmmaker – with a deep dark secret, of course – watches with eyebrows raised.

You can almost guess the rest … Tania is asked by her oh-so-pale boss to do a film dissecting love and marriages in the oh-so-foreign East London Indian community from which Tania has worked so hard to disassociate herself, starring none other than her two best friends. Wide-eyed Chila tells everyone she’s going to be a movie star, and wary Sunita only agrees because it’s for Tans after all. The film premieres, filled with inappropriate footage, not the least of which is material that Tania gathered only after the camera was supposedly turned off. After the screening, her two best buds, whom she has completely trashed, are in for the worst ending of all – watching Tania glomming with Prince Charming himself.

So that’s the first half. The second half is how the three inseparable women, in spite of all these betrayals, get back together, and stand strong and united against the worthless men in their lives. Sunita emerges from her lard cocoon, Tania dumps allthe losers, and even Chila discovers her own backbone. Sing girls, sing! “At first I was afraid, I was petrified …”

Yes, so been there, done that. But still, it can be quite fun. Just imagine the shining disco ball illuminating all those eager faces. Nothing in the novel is going to change your life, and you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes more than once. But it’s a quick and easy read … just the perfect something to pack for the beach.

Review: aOnline website, June 22, 2000

Readers: Adult

Published: 2000


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