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Brick Lane by Monica Ali
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Brick Lane (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Monica Ali

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4,2531111,167 (3.43)225
Member:crimson-tide
Title:Brick Lane
Authors:Monica Ali
Info:Transworld (2003), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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. 70
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Booksloth)
  3. 20
    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (hbsweet)
  4. 00
    The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton by Sathnam Sanghera (KayCliff)
  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
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» See also 225 mentions

English (106)  French (3)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
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.

**SPOILERS**
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.
**SPOILERS OVER**

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 |
Received this from a friend
  JosieRivers | Dec 28, 2014 |
I'm normally a sucker for multi-culti, feminist, South Asian diaspora novels, but for some reason it took me a long time to get around to this one. It turned out to be a nice quick read, pushing all the appropriate postcolonial buttons, but without being too predictable. Ali clearly likes to give her characters plenty of time to develop, which is good, but does mean that when we are first introduced to them they tend to come across as rather crude stereotypes. Worthwhile, but not exactly life-changing. ( )
  thorold | Nov 25, 2014 |
The writing is gorgeous with vivid descriptions, but I couldn't get beyond the fifth page. ( )
  astasin | Sep 9, 2014 |
This feels like a modern classic and I'm not surprised it was made into a film. ( )
  oldstick | Aug 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Monica Aliprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Carrying into her adult years a sense of fatalism instilled during her hardscrabble birth, Nazneen finds herself married off to a man twice her age and moved to London, where she begins to wonder if she has a say in her own destiny.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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