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Brick Lane (2003)

by Monica Ali

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,3461281,974 (3.44)275
Set in the gritty Tower Hamlets area of East London, Brick Laneis the story of Nazneen, an Asian immigrant girl and how she deals with issues of love, cultural differences and the human spirit. Nazneen is forced into an arranged marriage with a much older man whose expectations of life are miserably low. When they flee the oppression of their Bangladeshi village for a high-rise block in the East End, she finds herself cloistered and dependent on her husband. It soon becomes apparent that of the two, she is the real survivor and more able to deal with the ways of the world and the vagaries of human behavior. Through her friendship with another Asian girl, she begins to understand the unsettling ways of her new homeland.… (more)
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» See also 275 mentions

English (123)  French (3)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
Here's what I wrote in 2008 about this read: "People from Bangladesh in London. The assimilation & segregation pressures build, and the homeland still beckons. Nice quotation from amazon.com: "If Dickens or Trollope were loosed upon contemporary London, this is exactly the sort of novel they would cook up. --Claire Dederer"" ( )
  MGADMJK | Jul 15, 2023 |
I liked this novel about the life of a Bangla-Deshi girl sent to London for an arranged marriage to an older man. A lot of interesting characters, all a little bit clichèd but all with some individuality and even charm. I've read a few novels by south Asians but never from the point of view of a Muslim woman so that was interesting also. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
I trudged through the first chapters, then skimmed the rest > it stayed boring and repetitive.

Nice cover. ( )
  m.belljackson | Dec 18, 2022 |
Remarkably good. Just when you thought that writers had wrung the last material out complicated-yet-somehow-tedious intercontinental, post-imperial emigration stories, you pick up something like "Brick Lane" and get reminded how vast and rich the space between cultures really is, and the near-heroic things that humans are capable of doing in order to reach across it. "Brick Lane" to its unending credit, seems to have been briefed on this sort of narrative's own clichés and doesn't hesitate to challenge them. Chamu, the educated-stupid patriarch of the family described here, can recite the traps and complexities of the emigrant's dilemma, but it doesn't help him one bit. In fact, many of this novel's characters, including the young, idealistic Karim, aren't shy about articulating the cultural pathologies that make their lives difficult, but, in the final analysis, "Brick Lane" is superbly written novel about doing, not speaking or writing. It's no coincidence, I think, that it's an English-language novel whose main character doesn't learn English until its last hundred pages or so. The author seems much more interested in the nuts-and-bolts of Nazneen's survival than any commentaries that might be made about it. Being set, variously, in the slums and sweatshops of Dhaka a rough-and-tumble London council estate, the novel presents a picture of cultural assimilation and at-all-costs survival at ground zero.

Which isn't to say that it's not a joy to read. Nazneen's memories of her Bangladeshi village are as cool and soothing as a wet cloth, and her descriptions of her new British neighbors are insightful and funny. In Chamu, insufferable, unseeing, hypocritical, and too proud, Ali's got something of a world-class villain, if she didn't take her time to make it clear to the reader that he's much more lost, confused and -- at times -- sympathetic than he would like to seem. The ill-fitting love that grows between Chamu and Nazneen toward the end of the novel might rank as one of the twenty-first centuries most realistic, and most painful, romances. Ali's writing is both spry and marvelously complex throughout, and, while its action takes place in settings that are tightly constrained by poverty and stifling tradition, it also feels wonderfully open and ambitious. The book addresses money and class and religion and contemporary politics fearlessly, and the author never seems to miss a step. Most importantly, perhaps, its characters are utterly indelible. Ali's descriptions of Chamu's pretensions at being open-minded, Nazneen's courage and her self-doubt, and both her daughters' willingness to please and their anger are as expertly described as the family's sociological predicaments, and, to be honest, much more difficult for a writer to portray effectively. Yet Ali doesn't seem to break a sweat. This one is absolutely marvelous, a novel that whose grand thematic arcs are executed flawlessly and whose tiny interactions rings true. In the author's hands, these unremarkable, if hard-fought lives, take on an epic significance, and their stories take on tremendous emotional resonance. Even if you think that you're done with this sort of book, this one is well worth your time. Just terrific. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Oct 19, 2021 |
Really well-written and with great characterisation. I liked this book a lot but have sort of conflicted feelings about some of the themes. Read for Farewill book club, so maybe I'll have a better sense of it after our discussion this week. ( )
  krtierney | Jul 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ali, Monicaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Björkhem, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perria, LidiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariOvers.secondary authorsome 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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Set in the gritty Tower Hamlets area of East London, Brick Laneis the story of Nazneen, an Asian immigrant girl and how she deals with issues of love, cultural differences and the human spirit. Nazneen is forced into an arranged marriage with a much older man whose expectations of life are miserably low. When they flee the oppression of their Bangladeshi village for a high-rise block in the East End, she finds herself cloistered and dependent on her husband. It soon becomes apparent that of the two, she is the real survivor and more able to deal with the ways of the world and the vagaries of human behavior. Through her friendship with another Asian girl, she begins to understand the unsettling ways of her new homeland.

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