Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Brick Lane (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Monica Ali

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,5481141,054 (3.44)248
Title:Brick Lane
Authors:Monica Ali
Info:Transworld (2003), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, booker shortlist, england, bangladesh, immigration, marriage, islam, film

Work details

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (2003)

  1. 80
    Small Island by Andrea Levy (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both these excellent novels examine the issues of immigration and assimilation in England, though the cultures and backgrounds are different.
  2. 80
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Booksloth)
  3. 30
    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (hbsweet)
  4. 00
    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  5. 11
    The Road Home by Rose Tremain (bergs47)
    bergs47: Immigration and assimilation in England, from the view of the immigrant although one is from Eastern Europe and the other from Asia
  6. 00
    The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton by Sathnam Sanghera (KayCliff)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 248 mentions

English (109)  French (3)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All (114)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Nazneen is born in Bangladesh, the eldest of two sisters, and from the very first page we learn that she is taught to leave things to fate. So when at the age of sixteen her father arranges for her to marry a man over twice her age and move to London to be with her husband, Nazneen accepts it and does what is required. The book covers her life in London from when she moves there in the 1980s, up until the early 2000s. Initially Nazneen cannot speak more than a couple of words of English and so relies on her husband for everything – but it becomes clear that while her husband Chanu is not cruel, he is a pathetic and ineffectual man with big dream and small achievements. He is always just on the verge of something – a new business, a great promotion – but it never actually materialises.

Nazneen forges some friendships, most notably with a lady named Razia, and as she learns to cope in this new country, she also finds strength within herself and ends up falling in love with a young radical, who is at least as unsuitable for her as her husband, if not more so.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it took me a while to read it – but I think it is a book that deserves time and attention. Ali is so observant and so wonderfully descriptive that you really feel immersed in Nazneen’s world, although I could never begin to imagine what her life must feel like. But any reader will certainly recognise the relationships and social politics at work, and the interplay between characters. The book opened my eyes to an immigrant’s experience, and certainly the description of life after September 11th was eye opening, with many people viewing all Muslims with suspicion and hatred. Another surprise was the humour which Ali employs in her descriptions. She has a remarkably funny turn of phrase which made me smile often throughout the story, even when the events described were not funny at all.

A fair part of the book was taken up with letters from Nazneen’s younger sister Hasina, still in Bangladesh, who disgraced her family at a young age by running away to get married to man she chose rather than one who was chosen for her. The marriage didn’t work, but the letters make it clear that Hasina, unlike Nazneen, refused to leave her life to fate and wanted to make her own choices instead, for better or for worse.

I loved the ending of this book – I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I do feel it gave hope for Nazneen’s future. Overall, I would say that while this was the first book I have read by this author, it certainly will not be the last. ( )
  Ruth72 | Apr 29, 2017 |
Great set of characters in this novel. Nazeen a young Muslim girl who has decided to allow fate to dictate her life but really struggles with that because what is right and what is wrong is not so black and white. Her husband is Chanu her marriage arranged and we think he is just a silly litttle man who yells at his kids and has really bad parenting skills who has big get rich schemes that go nowhere. Turns out he adores his family and his heart means well.
It is a novel that tell you what it is like to be poor and an immigrant in London's getto most specifically a Bangladeshi trying to find your way. ( )
  Smits | Apr 25, 2017 |
I enjoyed this book, but it took me ages to finish. I read it in snippets — on the bus for five minutes here, on the tram for ten minutes there, waiting for rice to boil or toast to pop up, surreptitiously during boring lectures — because while I liked it, it didn’t have enough of a *pull* — except near the end — to make me keep reading when I could be doing other things.

Brick Lane is the story of Nazneen, a young woman who moves to London from Bangladesh to live with the husband her father has arranged for her. I have a soft place in my heart for all well-written “multicultural” and “immigrant experience” literature, and this novel fits that category well. I enjoyed how the characters developed over time. The writing is excellent, the characters are complex and realistic, and the relationships and conversations between them genuine. I especially liked how Ali showed the complicated love between a husband and wife who have never actually been in love with each other but have spent decades together: Chanu’s face — as I remember, “loose with gravity, tense with worry” — hovering above Nazneen’s as she screams in a nightmare. The correspondence between Nazneen and her sister in Bangladesh was important, but I don’t think it was presented well. The longest stretch of time was shown through a series of what felt like half a dozen letters from Hasina, one after another, and it grew tiresome. I also didn’t understand why Ali chose to write Hasina’s letters, which were presumably in Bengali, in broken English, while her sister’s letters were fully grammatical. Not only did it not make sense, it also made the narrative less engaging (especially when the letters went on for pages).


Some memorable quotes. I didn’t mark my favorite lines as I read, so these are only the ones I remembered well enough to find again.

“It was a strange thing, and it took her some time to realize it. When he spoke in Bengali he stammered. In English, he found his voice and it gave him no trouble. [...]
“‘My husband had a mobile phone,‘ she told him. ‘But he gave it up. Said it was too expensive.’
“‘Y-y-your husband is right.’
“She switched to English. ‘Very useful thing.’
“‘Y-y-yes, but t-t-too expensive.’
“She saw at once that she had drawn attention to the very thing she had thought to hide. He would not speak English now. He would not disown himself.” (pp. 210–11)

“He was the first man to see her naked. It made her sick with shame. It made her sick with desire.” (p. 299)

“Chanu said, ‘Do you know the problem with these boys?’
“‘Not enough studying,’ said Bibi smartly.
“‘Too much roaming around,’ said Shahana. ‘Like goats.’“
“‘Don’t try to be clever.’” (p. 388)
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
This Man Booker prize nominee went on just a bit too long for me -- my interest petered out about 70 pages before the end of the book. I did like the way the book ended though so it was worth persevering. ( )
  leslie.98 | Apr 11, 2016 |
Nazneen is a young woman living with her family in Bangladesh and dreaming of her future. Soon she’s shipped to England where she’s married off to an older man. Her life becomes so small, confined almost entirely to their apartment. Her husband is gross and selfish and treats her like an employee. I understand it’s an arranged marriage, but it’s an awful situation. There’s no physical abuse, just a continual wearing down of her spirit. Her casual acceptance of her situation is heartbreaking and it was hard for me to identify with her.

When she finally has an affair you honestly don’t even care about the man she is sleeping with, it’s more about the fact that she’s finally done one tiny thing for herself. Even then it seems to make her more miserable than before. She also has two daughters who grow up in England and have a hard time embracing their parents’ culture. They are children of England, not Bangladesh and that divide makes it difficult for them to understand their mother’s decision to stay in a loveless marriage.

Part of the book consists of letters back and forth between Nazneen and her sister. Hasina ran away from home and married for love, but her life was not a happy one. I think the main purpose of that plot was to show Nazneen that things could always be worse, but at least Hasina chose her own life.

I felt like we are waiting for something to happen for the entire book and then nothing does. It’s this uphill slog that you think will end with an incredible view, but when you reach the top there’s nothing to see. She never goes to see her sister, she never gets caught in the affair, etc. She just decides to stay at home when her husband leaves. That was good in its own way, but there was no real resolution.

The fact that I couldn’t identify with the main character wasn’t a deal breaker for me in anyway. I love learning about different cultures. I love seeing the struggle that comes from immigrating to a new country and trying to understand their customs. The problem was that Nazneen didn’t seem interested in anything. I felt like I couldn’t root for her when she couldn’t even root for herself.

BOTTOM LINE: Geez I struggled with this one. It’s such a slow moving novel. I felt like I was living through those years of stifling boredom with Nazneen, and not in the good way. There is some beautiful writing, but for me it wasn’t enough to balance out the slog through the story. ( )
  bookworm12 | Jan 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Monica Aliprimary authorall editionscalculated
Watanabe, KyokoDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
'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
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.
Chanu stopped and looked in a shop window.'Seventy five pounds for that little bag. You couldn't fit even one book into it.'
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
366 avail.
35 wanted
1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.44)
0.5 5
1 36
1.5 6
2 113
2.5 29
3 338
3.5 102
4 414
4.5 26
5 122

HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

» Publisher information page


An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 116,064,218 books! | Top bar: Always visible