In A Few Last Laughs Smitha and Annan are two young people caught in the process of arranged marriages. Smitha’s family has yet to find her a husband and Annan’s father seems to be the major stumbling block in Annan’s search for the woman who will help him have a happy marriage. After Annan’s father refuses to even meet Smitha’s family, their chance for love seems to have disappeared.
Theme of the Book
A Few Last Laughs is a story that shows that love can develop even when there are huge obstacles in the way. In this case, the obstacles are cultural, but they could be anything. It is the meeting of two minds and two hearts that is important.
What I Liked About the Story
Anyone who has read any of my previous reviews knows that I am not a fan of romance novels. Yet when I picked up A Few Last Laughs and started reading, I didn’t stop until I had finished the book.
The novella has all the usual characteristics of a romance novel: seemingly star-crossed lovers, family conflict, friends who provide advice, and busybodies who interfere. But the elements that save this from cliché are many: there is humor, there are true to life characters, there is the portrayal of arranged marriage that gives the reader insight into another culture’s traditions.
Annan is the sort of young man who might be labeled a ‘loser’ by some. He has failed in so many instances to meet a woman he can marry. His father blames him; his mother is silent; Annan blames his father and has no confidence in himself. However, as we get to know him, Annan turns out to be witty, caring, and impatient of tradition and patriarchy. He is not happy with his father’s efforts but lacks the confidence to try on his own – until he meets Smitha.
Smitha and her family are disparaged as being ‘rustic’ because they are sometimes loud and love to laugh. She is outgoing, funny, and still bound by tradition to rely on her family to find her a husband. It is her email correspondence with Annan that makes Smitha human and likeable.
The story is narrated by Annan. This makes the novella personal and encourages the reader to identify with the characters, even though the culture may be quite different. I found this insight into the culture of arranged marriages – the astrology, the matchmaking websites, even the use of detectives – to be fascinating. Mr. Ramanujam has written a novella that is both enlightening and entertaining.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
I am not an expert in the characteristics of Indian English. I have worked with writers whose native language is not English and I have written in languages other than my own native language. A writer who is able to produce a novel or novella in a language other than the language he or she first learned is to be applauded. However, this does not mean that the non-native English speaking writer does not have a responsibility to have the language checked for grammar and vocabulary by a native speaking editor.
There are many instances of non-native language in the book that, while they do not hinder comprehension, make the story awkward in places. I would strongly suggest that an editor take a look at the text simply to make it easier for English-speaking readers to understand.
Despite my general dislike of romance novels, I loved A Few Last Laughs. I can see this being made into a very entertaining romantic comedy film.