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Brick Lane by Monica Ali
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Brick Lane (2003)

by Monica Ali

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,6581191,459 (3.44)253
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» See also 253 mentions

English (114)  French (3)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (119)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
This was the first book I’d read in a while that made me feel motivated to read, and I love Ali’s way with words. It reminds me a little of another book I read a few years ago called Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne, about a young girl whose life is picked up from Sri Lanka and dropped into 80’s London. I really love reading books set in other cultures, it’s a great way to learn more about countries I may never be lucky enough to visit. And it gives me an insight what it is like to be a woman in such cultures, and what the immigrant experience is like. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
Although this is well-written, I had an incredibly hard time getting interested in it. The truth is, very simply, I was bored through most of the first half of it, and simply reading along because I'd begun the book and had it at hand. About halfway through, it began moving a bit more quickly, but not by much, and I ended up being glad to have it done with. There's a lot to admire in the writing here, but as believable as the book is, there's just not enough (so far as I'm concerned, anyway) to engage readers. I never could get to really like or care about the characters, and the plot moved so slowly that I think the book might have been much stronger if it had been about half its length.

In any case, I suppose that's where things come out--I couldn't recommend it, and likely wouldn't plan on reading more by Ali. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Dec 25, 2017 |
“The thing about getting older is that you don't need everything to be possible any more, you just need things to be certain.”

At the heart of this book lies an adulterous affair. Nazneen, the central character, is a Bangladeshi woman who arrived in London as the wife of a much older man, Chanu. Nazneen does not enter lightly into her sexual adventure but as Karim, a young Muslim radical, comes daily to her house bringing her sewing piecework a growing physical attraction gradually grows between them. Ali manages to capture all the little details as each abandons their moral objections.

However, Ali manages to also encompass a growing partnership between Nazneen and Chanu. Theirs is an arranged marriage and she arrived in London as a naive 18 year-old village girl who spoke no English. In contrast Chanu had lived in London for some time as a single man and appears well read. Initially Chanu appears to be little more than a figure of fun, with his deluded ambitions of promotion and his useless certificates for unimpressive qualifications. Yet gradually we come to see him rather differently, as a figure who is, tragically, aware of his own shortcomings and of the way his dreams have been thwarted bit by bit. Ali paints a subtle portrait of how clashes of culture can threaten a marriage like theirs and how they can hurt one another whilst at the same time come to depend on one another. This she does so with a deft comic touch.

Outside this very domestic world their lives are also touched by the politics of the time, the riots in Oldham, the 9/11 attacks and growing anti-Muslim sentiment. These events are used to illustrate the growing differences between the love triangle. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the 'Bengal Tigers', a group of local Muslims led by Karim, at whose meetings girls in head-scarves argue with boys in Nike tracksuits about whether to engage in global jihad or battle local injustices. Nazneen attends some of the 'Bengal Tigers' meetings.Initially she admires Karim and his certainty about his place in life, but gradually as her own self-awareness takes root, she realises that his dreams are likely to turn out as groundless as Chanu's. "She had looked at him and seen only his possibilities. Now she looked again and saw that the disappointments of his life, which would shape him, had yet to happen."

Throughout the novel Nazneen receives letters from her sister Hasina back in Bangladesh. Hasina had run away from home marrying for what she believed was a love match only to then be compelled to leave her violent husband and try to survive on her own. The choices that Hasina must face in Bangladesh are so much starker than the sister's in London. Whereas Hasina's choices will determine her very survival Nazneen's seem only to regard her own happiness. This contrast exaggerates the seemingly random nature of life and love.

Despite some fairly momentous themes, Ali employs a deceptively light touch throughout avoiding the pitfalls of melodrama. This is particularly true of her portrayal of Chanu. However, strangely the relationship between Nazneen, her daughters and female friends are poorly drawn in comparison. Also the ending, given the complex relationships that had proceeded it, was a little too neat for my liking. However, one must remember that this was the author's first novel and as such is a largely accomplished piece of work. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Nov 27, 2017 |
This was an interesting look at the life of a Bengali woman, Nazneen, who moves to London after her marriage to a much older man. I especially liked the parts which described her childhood in a small village. I suppose she would be considered to have improved her life by moving to England. However, her life was so circumscribed as a mother and wife living in the projects in London. Nazneen hardly seems to have gone anywhere and the descriptions of the flat make it seem claustrophobic. Her sister, who married for love, and ran away from the village didn't fare much better as witnessed by the letters she writes to Nazneen. I found it difficult to believe that Nazneen had an adulterous affair and even more difficult to believe that her husband would meekly return to Bangladesh without Nazneen or the children. I was pleased by the ending in which Nazneen makes a life for herself and the girls without either her husband or her lover. Her sister seems to still believe in the power of love as she runs away with the cook from the house she is working in as a maid. At least both women are making their own decisions! ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 25, 2017 |
Rating: 3.5
I had a hard time finishing this book not because it is thick. But i found some parts, like the letters of Hasina, that were too hard to comprehend due to the way they are written.

I was also disappointed that Nazneen and her sister Hasina wasn't given a chance to finally reunite again after so many years of being apart. On the other hand, I like how Nazneen and the other Muslim women she knew were able to stand on their own without any help from men. This book showcased that women could also have the strength and freewill of Muslim women as long as they put their mind and hearts into it. ( )
  fugou | Aug 14, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Monica Aliprimary authorall editionscalculated
Watanabe, KyokoDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'Sternly, remorselessly, fate guides each of us; only at the beginning, when we're absorbed in details, in all sorts of nonsense, in ourselves, are we unaware of its harsh hand.' - Ivan Turgenev
'A man's character is his fate.' - Heraclitus
Dedication
For Abba, with love
First words
An hour and forty-five minutes before Nazneen's life began - began as it would proceed for quite some time, that is to say uncertainly - her mother Rupban felt an iron fist squeeze her belly.
Quotations
Chanu stopped and looked in a shop window.'Seventy five pounds for that little bag. You couldn't fit even one book into it.'
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743243315, Paperback)

Wildly embraced by critics, readers, and contest judges (who put it on the short-list for the 2003 Man Booker Prize), Brick Lane is indeed a rare find: a book that lives up to its hype. Monica Ali's debut novel chronicles the life of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl so sickly at birth that the midwife at first declares her stillborn. At 18 her parents arrange a marriage to Chanu, a Bengali immigrant living in England. Although Chanu--who's twice Nazneen's age--turns out to be a foolish blowhard who "had a face like a frog," Nazneen accepts her fate, which seems to be the main life lesson taught by the women in her family. "If God wanted us to ask questions," her mother tells her, "he would have made us men." Over the next decade-and-a-half Nazneen grows into a strong, confident woman who doesn't defy fate so much as bend it to her will. The great delight to be had in Brick Lane lies with Ali's characters, from Chanu the kindly fool to Mrs. Islam the elderly loan shark to Karim the political rabblerouser, all living in a hothouse of Bengali immigrants. Brick Lane combines the wide scope of a social novel about the struggles of Islamic immigrants in pre- and post-9/11 England with the intimate story of Nazneen, one of the more memorable heroines to come along in a long time. If Dickens or Trollope were loosed upon contemporary London, this is exactly the sort of novel they would cook up. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:08 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Nanzeen, married off to an older man, moves from her Bangladeshi village to live with him in London in the 1980s and 1990s, where she raises a family, learns to love her husband, and comes to a realization that she has a voice in her own life.

» see all 7 descriptions

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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