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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781035405916

Price: £24.99

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A whimsical and innovative debut, HAPPY is the story of a young cinephile who leaves his rural village in India with big dreams, only to find himself trapped in the tedium of menial jobs across Italy working off a debt he may never repay.

In a small farming village in Punjab, India, a boy crouches over his brother’s phone in a rapeseed field watching clips of Godard’s Bande à part on YouTube.

His name is Happy Singh Soni and when he’s not sleeping among the cabbages and eating sugary rotis, Happy dreams of becoming an actor, one who plays the melancholy roles; the sad, pretty boys, rare in Indian cinema. He plans a clandestine journey to Europe, where he’ll finally land a breakout role.

After a nightmarish passage to Italy, Happy still manages to find relief in food and fantasy, even as he is forced into ever-worsening work conditions on a radish farm by the syndicate involved in smuggling him to Europe to pay off the supposed debt they claim he has accrued. While disillusionment amongst the farm workers rise, Happy will find the love – and tragedy – that his favourite films always promised.

Basra’s unique literary voice illuminates the unimaginable choices millions of migrants workers are forced to make – risking everything only to find themselves trapped in a system that gives them very little in return with surprising levity and emotional clarity.

(P) 2023 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

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Playful, funny, and wildly free, Happy inhabits the seam between beauty and tragedy. A miraculous novel.
MEGHA MAJUMDAR, author of A Burning
A bonkers story that reads like a fine ten-course meal.
GARY SHTEYNGART, author of Our Country Friends
With an innovative form that is simultaneously playful and profound, Celina Baljeet Basra's HAPPY is outstanding! From the first to the final pages, I was completely charmed by Happy and his crew as they made their treacherous journey towards dreams of a better life. Using wry humour to deliver a dead serious message with laser-sharp lightness, Basra gives depth and definition to the unjust and inhumane conditions facing many migrants and undocumented workers. Read this book.
MELISSA FU, author of Peach Blossom Spring
Revealed in short snippets of imagined dialogue and interspersed with the perspectives of other characters and even inanimate objects, Happy's view of the world starts off as quirky and charming, but gains increasing pathos as the divide between his starry-eyed hopes and his increasingly hopeless reality grows. Happy's singular voice echoes long after the close to this striking story.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
First-time novelist Basra delivers a damning indictment of capitalism, a system that swallows the global poor whole and spits out wasted humans. At the same time, Basra maintains a light touch; the novel wears its burdens with good humor.
Poornima Apte, Booklist (Starred Review)
Happy presents: his world. A fragmented, kaleidoscopic whiz in-keeping with his dreamy, ever-optimistic outlook. Hardships are presented starkly but with humour, the worst of which we are spared in the moment by his glancing away, taking refuge in his own fantasies of superstardom. Immigration, drug abuse, gentrification, racism and death, Happy lives them fully until the book's surprising denoument. A fantastic little gem of a book.
CHIKODILI EMELUMADU, author of Dazzling