Reckless, beautiful and fearless, Anita Rutter is coolest girl in Tollington and from the moment Meena meets her, Anita becomes everything Meena aspires to be.
But it’s not easy trying to be a glamourous rebel when you’re a young Punjabi girl. Especially when you have to battle against crippling family expectation and the prejudice of the other white residents in a 1960s mining village.
One thing’s for sure, spirited Meena may not always make the right decisions, but she’s guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
Anita and Me was Meera Syal’s first novel, and since then she has written another two books.
Syal has made her name through numerous pursuits including: comedy, acting, writing, producing, singing and journalism and as such, was awarded a CBE last year for her contribution to British drama and literature.
Anita and Me is semi-autobiographical, based upon some of the author’s own challenges of growing up the only Asian girl in a small white village and her struggles with identity and self-confidence.
A tale of friendship, loss and betrayal – this brilliantly funny and quirky novel has great heart, with lively, memorable characters.
Despite all of the comedic aspects of the book, there is also a rather gritty undercurrent to this novel which reveals itself in the villagers’ interaction with Meena and her family – which, whilst at times comical, is often tainted with racial stigma.
Most of racism in the story is personified through the character of Sam, who is both desirable village bad boy and militant villain in one.
Sam is a character Meena feels very conflicted over and he forms one of the story’s main love interests for both herself and Anita.
I first read this novel when I was 15 and it’s one I’ve revisited again and again in the years since then. I thoroughly, deeply love this book and believe it will appeal to you no matter your age or background.
The narrative, told from Meena’s perspective, is as addictive and vibrant as her personality. It’s so rewarding to actually read a book and whole heartedly love the protagonist despite her flaws.
A film version of the novel was released in November 2002, in which Syal features as the formidable Auntie Shaila.
However, I must insist here that you don’t just take the easy way out and only watch the film.
The film, whilst admittedly entertaining, has none of the depth that makes the book so special and some key passages have been cut or altered to the great detriment of the storyline.
Great for perking up any post-Christmas blues, this is a book well worth picking up.
Published by Flamingo in 1996, Anita and me retails at £5.99.