16 June, 2021

Too Neat By Half

Despite Syal's huge talent, unexpectedly full of cliches

Too Neat By Half
If only all first novels were crap, we wouldn't have this problem. Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee suffers from that common, and frequently debilitating disease known as 'the second novel'. Most of us will never be prone to this, thankfully, never having made it to the first, but it is something which dogs poor, struggling writers who burst on the scene with a crash and follow it up with what everyone is hoping will be a bang, but turns out to be a whimper.

Arundhati Roy's neatly side-stepped the 'what next?' syndrome by smartly switching genres and leaving the ivory towers of fiction for the radioactive earth of Pokhran and the muddy waters of the Narmada. Meera Syal's debut novel was also a bit of a stunner: a wonderfully wild, wicked romp through childhood for a young Punjabi girl growing up in Wolverhampton, entitled Anita and Me. I loved it. The critics loved it. The publishers loved it. It was serialised for Radio 4 in the UK: the listeners loved it. "More!" we cried. "Encore!" So, being an obliging as well as massively talented young woman, she gave us more....

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