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Brick Lane | [Monica Ali]

Brick Lane

Nazneen is a teenager forced into an arranged marriage with an older man and misery seems to stretch ahead for her. Fearfully leaving the sultry oppression of her Bangladeshi village, Nazneen finds herself cloistered in a small flat in a high-rise block in the East End of London. Because she speaks no English, she is obliged to depend totally on her husband. But it becomes apparent that, of the two, she is the real survivor.…
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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize

This exciting and deeply moving debut novel follows the tumultuous life of Nazneen from her birth in a Bangladeshi village hut, to her arranged marriage to Chanu and the subsequent move to London's Tower Hamlets.

Nazneen's inauspicious entry to the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a Bangladeshi village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu. Her life in London's Tower Hamlets is, on the surface, calm. For years, keeping house and rearing children, she does what is expected of her. Yet Nazneen walks a tightrope stretched between her daughters' embarrassment and her husband's resentments. Chanu calls his elder daughter the little memsahib. 'I didn't ask to be born here,' say Shahana, with regular finality.

Into that fragile peace walks Karim. He sets questions before her, of longing and belonging; he sparks in her a turmoil that reflects the community's own; he opens her eyes and directs her gaze -- but what she sees, in the end, comes as a surprise to them both.

While Nazneen journeys along her path of self-realization, a way haunted by her mother's ghost, her sister Hasina, back in Bangladesh, rushes headlong at her life, first making a 'love marriage', then fleeing her violent husband. Woven through the novel, Hasina's letters from Dhaka recount a world of overwhelming adversity. Shaped -- yet ultimately not bound -- by their landscapes and memories, both sisters struggle to dream themselves out of the rules prescribed for them.

Beautifully rendered and, by turns, both comic and deeply moving, Brick Lane establishes Monica Ali as one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

©2003 Monica Ali (P)2004 W F Howes Ltd

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  • Linda
    Monterubbiano, Italy
    12/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brick Lane"
    What disappointed you about Brick Lane?

    I found this book very disappointing. When I read the synopsis I thought it'd be interesting to read something different to my usual choices,but now I wish I had not wasted a credit on such a boring book.


    Would you recommend Brick Lane to your friends? Why or why not?

    I wouldn't recommend such a boring book to any of my friends.


    What does Meera Syal bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    If it had not been for Meera Syal's narration I don't think that I would have finished the book,although I hate not finishing a book.I thought she made the characters believable despite such a boring story.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Boredom,which was disappointing because the story could have been interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    I would be very wary of buying another book written by Monica Ali even if it was a prize winner.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Petra
    Tewkesbury, United Kingdom
    11/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating insight into Bangladeshi community"

    Brick Lane tells the present-day story of two Bangladeshi sisters. Nasreen is married to the older civil servant Chanu, who takes her back to London's Tower Hamlet into a life of narrow and monoglot domesticity. Hasina remains in Bangladesh and appears to make all the wrong choices in a society in which women's opportunities are curtailed on all sides. She makes a love marriage and runs away from home. She works in a garment factory, experiences violence and prostitution, finds another respectable job as a nanny with a local affluent businessman, but never gives up her dream of a better life (with a better man). Nasreen, too, sees passion intrude into her dull and safe marriage to a man who struggles with his own limitations. Will she eventually decide to return to Bangladesh with her husband or choose to stay in London with their two teenage daughters?

    These parallel story lines are set against the background of Dhaka and Tower Hamlets, in communities whose characters are delineated economically and beautifully. At the core of the book is not so much romance but self-fulfilment, choice, opportunity, particularly for women whether they are living in rural or urban Asian Muslim communities or as first-generation immigrants in the so-called multicultural West. How do their opportunities compare? How do they meet the crises in their lives, and how do they make their big decisions? This is not to say that the male characters' lives are any easier: in their jobs and on the estates they live they daily encounter racial and religious prejudice; young men resort to drugs and don't live up to their parents' expectations. How does Tower Hamlet's Bangladeshi community meet the prejudice levelled at them in the aftermath of 9/11? It's a thought-provoking and engaging book with memorable characters.

    Meera Syal's reading is very good indeed: she offers a distinct voice for each character; the narrative voice might have done with a slightly more lively touch.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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