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.
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000 Release date: 06/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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