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Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  1,253 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Meera Syal has created an indelible portrait of a close-knit group of Indian women living in London. Caught between two cultures, three childhood friends—Chila, Sunita, and Tania—are expected to revert to being obedient mothers and wives. But their world explodes when Tania makes a documentary, starring Chila and Sunita, about contemporary urban Indian Life. The result is
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 2nd 2001 by Picador (first published October 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,185)
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Aug 03, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't write a review before, but reading others' I felt I had to respond. I thought it was a bit offensive that people labeled this light--just because it's about women's lives doesn't mean it's light at all. Do you call death, infidelity, social injustice, etc. light? In fact, I think this contains quite a meaningful examination of a lot of important issues (diaspora, women's roles, the intersection of cultures and generations) and is really complex and beautifully written. Don't even get me ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Anne rated it it was amazing
A greatly enjoyable and engrossing read, set in London's East End, telling the stories of young women from Punjabi backgrounds.

Each individual has a dilemma, and her story is linked to another member of the group. There are very funny, laugh aloud moments, plus some times of intense sadness. I got completely into each of their stories. There is Chila, so innocent, so naive , but surprisingly resilient and her husband Deepak. Then we meet Sunita, and her friend Tania. The relationships between hu
Apr 28, 2011 VivaPalestina rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
An interesting read portraying the journey of three British/Asian girls as they battle with the sense of not belonging to either culture, never fitting in with either. At times I felt I could relate to their hardships, (despite feeling that the Indians have it better than the Arabs) as they struggle to break free from all the labels placed on them, but on the whole, I also felt a self of relief that I could most definitely not classify myself as one of them, as my sense of belonging far exceeds ...more
Vickie Wang
May 09, 2007 Vickie Wang rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Asian women of all ages
I see a little bit of myself in each of the three main characters. My friends from class assume that Tania would be my Punjabi-alter-ego, and I do see some similarities. Physical appearance that stands out from other Asian girls, westernized attitude, but I grew out of rejecting my culture after I went to the U.S.

Spoiler alert!

It was Sunita that really spoke to me. She's an ex-bra-burning feminist, which is one of my many aspiration, who fell madly in love with a fellow Punjabi thinker, failed
Feb 18, 2010 Nafisah rated it really liked it
Recommended to me by my sister, I ended up really liking this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's written by Meera Syal who you may know from "Goodness Gracious Me" or any number of the other things she's contributed to. So needless to say there's a good amount of dry humor but each of the three main characters are incredibly compelling and although they are worlds different from one another the reader can relate to each of them, become invested in them, and want to shake them when they ...more
Juliana Graham
Mar 03, 2016 Juliana Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really surprised me - I remember seeing the adaptation on TV quite a few years ago and enjoying it, but the details were very hazy. I was expecting this to be quite light and fluffy, a typical chick lit quick read. However, I was instantly struck by Meera Syal's beautiful writing style and the way she portrays the characters so well that it's like we've known them for as long as they've known each other. Divided into two clear parts, there is a definite shocking moment at the end of pa ...more
Nov 19, 2007 Lorraine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women and book clubs
Shelves: british
An excellent blend of chiclit and serious literature. The book is not a "light read" but is disguised as one, with the way it encompasses topics of typical chic lit fiction (love, adultery, dull marriages, girl friends, midlife crisis, dysfunctional families) with profound insight and realism -- no sugar coating, but no hyperbolic drama, either. The combination of three women, very different but intimately bound together, makes for a good read.
Even though my own journey is so different from the
Aug 01, 2007 Amar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, read it in 24 hrs, laughed so hard at times my sides hurt. My husband is English Indian so his references helped quite a bit. Aside from the funny bits, Meera had some great insights about modern South Asian that sticks out particularly is "no matter how succesful she was outside of the home (be it dr, scientist, CEO), the Asian woman always had to bow her head to her in-laws/Indian society at some point" (that is my general recollection of that line anyway!)

For mo
Jul 31, 2014 Theblueempress rated it liked it
Upon reading the blurb all I thought was 'here's another book about the lives of Indian origin girls in London..'but just to humor myself I did end up reading it. And it was a complete surprise. Meera Syal is a funny, honest and precise writer; three traits that writers often do not posses in tandem. While the characters are quite cliche (Tania the sexy, smart and independent one, Chila the naive and conflicted one and Sunita the one with the marriage in limbo and the body image issues), Syal gi ...more
Harsha Priolkar
Jan 28, 2015 Harsha Priolkar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
My second book of the year and the one that finally broke the reading rut I've found myself in for too long now! I've seen Syal on TV in the Brit sitcoms she's appeared in but never read her. Having now read her, I must say I like her writing better than her acting!

'Life isn't all Ha Ha Hee Hee' is the story of three friends, three women Tania, Chila and Sunita, bound together by an inherent streak of independence and a underlying desire to break free from the Punjabi roots that bind them all. E
Jackie Watts
Mar 28, 2016 Jackie Watts rated it it was ok
Two stars is probably a bit mean, this is a well written book and it does a perfectly good job of telling the story it sets out to tell. I didn't have any problem finishing it. But it's a difficult book to rave over - the plot is pretty mundane and, although there is some sharp observation here and there, the overall effect is a bit humourless. When the narrative slips into first person it's very difficult to distinguish between the individual voices, and the overall impression is that each of t ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Mitsu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: revisited-2016
Disappointingly bad chick lit (and I don't like chick lit at the best of times) more so as was expecting something better from Syal. Unfortunately reminiscent of Sari and Sins. No interest in any of the 2D characters, I think the time has come to give up on books I'm not enjoying rather than stubbornly dragging myself all the way through it.
Sep 21, 2015 Babs rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, 1-star, read-2005
Ugh! I've really really struggled with this book, which I hate - especially when I was looking forward to reading it.

I found Syal's writing truly awful. I made it approximately of the way through this book before giving up and skim-reading the last bits to find out what happened. I thought the writing was shallow and two-dimensional, the characters were unrealistic, and the ending inevitable. There were no funny bits - not even a paragraph that raised a smile - which I found disappointing from
May 13, 2009 Catnoble70 rated it it was ok
An insight into Indian culture and relationships from the viewpoint of 4 female friends, I found it mildly entertaining, but it tried too hard to be funny and didn't succeed. Only read if you find yourself with absolutely nothing else to do except shoot yourself
Janet Gogerty
Jul 24, 2014 Janet Gogerty rated it really liked it
I spotted this as a hardback in a charity shop and bought it, as Meera Syal is one of my favourite authors and comedians. I have read 'Anita and Me' and seen the films of both books a while ago.This was written last century, so much has happened in the world since then, a 'modern' novel dates far more quickly than a genuinely old book.
But I enjoyed it, a sparky, funny book with characters and situations you will recognise if you have lived in London. It is also a story about families, different
A nice comedy ! Made me chuckle many a time. For those of you unfamiliar with Meera Syal - she is an author, scriptwriter, comedian and actress. She is most well known for playing the Grandma on the TV Show – The Kumars at No. 42.
“Life isn’t all Ha Ha Hee Hee”, takes place in modern day Britain and centers on three girls – Chila, Sunni and Tania, all friends from childhood, who are now in their 30s, living life, getting married, having careers and raising children, not always in the way they w
Aug 11, 2011 Aleeda added it
I was curiously reminded, over and over again, of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. Tania, Sunita and Chila are frequently nteresting women that you can laugh with--I am sorry, I did NOT understand Chila--, but who also make you say puhleeze...put on your big girl panties and grow up! I loved the peek into Indian culture, which is far more proscribed (I don't like to say restrictive, having met two wonderfully happy, pampered, strong, Indian women personally) than my own. It must be difficult, ...more
Aug 30, 2009 Akemi rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
My 2010 bookcrossing journal

Hurah, I have finally gotten around to reading this book. I've already read another of her books - Anita and Me - which I enjoyed. And I've never been in the mood to pick this book up and read it. I don't know why, whether it was something with the cover or something... anyway, I listed it on bookmooch with a delay note, so that as soon as someone mooched it, I would be forced to get on and read it!

I did enjoy this, but I don't think it was anything amazing. A good re
Apr 30, 2014 Sharon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading Anita and Me, I was looking forward to this book but it didn't live up to expectations. As a look at the cultural quest of a group of friends moving from their traditional Punjabi roots to contemporary London this is interesting enough, but the characters lacked depth and as a story about individuals I didn't find I cared enough.
Jul 13, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-pre-2014
Very funny, yet also poignant, story of three friends who find that life doesn't turn out the way they expected, and they have to come to terms with the consequences of their actions.

Likeable characters, especially enjoyed the development of the meek wife Chili into her own strong personality.
Jun 28, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
I knew I was going to like this book, it did come highly recommended, but I was not prepared to love this book. I was actually reading passages to my husband, discussing points with my children, writing down paragraphs, rereading entire chapters...yeah, it got to me. I didn't understand the parts which referred to the Indian culture, but boy did I understand the meaning. What a delight to read!
Apr 02, 2014 Alyson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and read too late each night as I didn't want to stop. The three different female characters are all suitably different to be distinguishable, and allowed for plenty of variety in the plot. Evocative descriptions and descriptive writing. A good read.
Aug 05, 2014 Kayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was very nervous about this book as it's not the sort of thing that I would choose to read myself, but since it has been sitting on my shelf for over a year I thought it was about time I read it! I was unsure if I would understand the jokes as I only have a small Indian background (My own mother has an Indian background but she died when I was very young) but I did find myself laughing out loud, shaking the book in frustration and almost crying. It is basically a book about three friends with ve ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Samia rated it it was ok
I wasn't a fan of this novel. It was nicely written prose, but I had a hard time relating to the characters (South Asian women who were born and bred in the UK). I usually am not a fan of South Asian literature that portrays S. Asian immigrants as confused, clumsy, cartoon-like, goofy, troubled, and backward and it is usually these types of stories and movies that make it into the mainstream. Though the author seems to have a grasp on the problems that second generation S. Asian women face, in t ...more
Mar 14, 2008 Elizabeth☮ rated it really liked it
Shelves: quick-reads
Sunita, Chila and Tania are childhood friends. They live in London and are all of Indian descent. The books begings with Chila's wedding to Deepak ... an arranged marriage. It has always been Sunita and Tania's job to look after Chila - always considered "slow" as a child. Chila's marriage is very innocent, but we learn that Tania has dated Deepak in the past. Chila doesn't know until she sees them kiss. Sunita is married with two children. Her marriage is in a lull, but she doesn't throw in the ...more
May 15, 2007 Lakshmi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think of this as sort of a British South Asian "Waiting to Exhale." Did I read that from the bookcover or did I make it up? But it really is kinda like that. Kinda pop, not too deep, but fun. It made me laugh out loud a few times, which is why I enjoyed it. Most books about "our" experiences are heavy or literary or depressing, which is not bad, but it just starts to get boring sometimes, until you get something like this to shake it up a bit. It was kind of refreshing to read something kind o ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Ming rated it really liked it
This is a complex, deep and thoughtful book that portrayed three childhood friends as they grew up. Yes, it's about women but this is not chick lit or light. I marvel at the psychological depth and the tension conveyed in their relationships. I appreciated that the context was the UK and that that had its cultural overlay in the storytelling and the social commentary. I was pleased by the depth and complexity of the characters, all told in the first person. The author intermittently included the ...more
Feb 17, 2011 Rita rated it liked it
1999. London Indian [Punjabi] community. Second-generation young women.

Had to learn some modern UK/London slang for this one!

Agree with several goodreads readers that altho the book sounds 'light' it really isn't.
Just at the very beginning I couldn't quite get into the book, but it turns into a compelling portrayal of three young women's quite different ways of dealing with their ethnic background [embrace it, pretend it isn't there, or change it from within].
Quite a lot of humor in it, and it s
Jun 16, 2015 Khalisah rated it really liked it
Great characters and story arc, Meera Syal is a force of her own in this searing novel on culture, assimilation and friendship.
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Meera Syal MBE (born Feroza Syal 27 June 1961 in Essington, near Wolverhampton) is a British Indian comedienne, writer, playwright, singer, journalist and actress. Her Punjabi-born parents came to Britain from New Delhi, and she has risen to prominence as one of the most UK's best-known Indian personalities. She was awarded the MBE in the New Year's Honours List of 1997.

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“I am the genuine article, therefore I don't have to try. I just have to be. You, on the other hand, have to try any passing bandwagon, because what else have you got? ” 6 likes
“Only tiny kindnesses, but the ones that counted, the million little mercies we take for granted, the mundane gestures that keep us, tentatively, together.” 1 likes
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