Brick Lane: A Novel Info

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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. A first novel. 75,000 first
printing.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Brick Lane: A Novel:

1

Jul 11, 2007

Could it take me longer to read a book? I made myself read this book everyday so I could be done with it and properly hate it.

Look at what the NY Review of Books said:

"Ali succeeds brilliantly in presenting the besieged humanity of people living hard, little-known lives on the margins of a rich, self-absorbed society."

WHO IS THIS CRAZY NUT? You need to read a book like Brick Lane to understand "besieged humanity" or what it's like to live a "hard, little-known" life?

The protaganist moves around Could it take me longer to read a book? I made myself read this book everyday so I could be done with it and properly hate it.

Look at what the NY Review of Books said:

"Ali succeeds brilliantly in presenting the besieged humanity of people living hard, little-known lives on the margins of a rich, self-absorbed society."

WHO IS THIS CRAZY NUT? You need to read a book like Brick Lane to understand "besieged humanity" or what it's like to live a "hard, little-known" life?

The protaganist moves around in the book like she's had a lobotomy. It wasn't until page 152, I believe, when Nazneen giggles. FINALLY, the woman shows a sign of life. Her senses are completely dulled. Don't buy into the crap about "what it must be like to live a suppressed/oppressed life as a Muslim woman." That's not what's going on. Compare Nazneen's character to that of her sister, aunt, and friends. It's a wonder that lifeless Nazneen even moves into an affair with a younger man.

The most ridiculous part (and because of that, maybe the most enjoyable?) of Nazneen's story is when she stops this evil money lender Mafia-like woman in the story by asking her to swear on the Qu'ran. Really, is that all it took? This woman is an interest-charging money lender (which, apparently, is a big NO-NO as a Muslim) who runs a religious school for girls and raises her sons to be repo-man thugs but she's afraid to swear on the Qu'ran because of an accounting discrepancy? Score one for Nazneen and her growing independence!

OK, to be fair, Nazneen is supposed to be a woman who is passive. Her own mother left Nazneen's entrance into the world up to Fate and that fatalism is what she was raised on. But how she moved from that passivity into an affair with a younger man? Kind of muddy. And her decision to stand up to her husband and stay in the UK with the kids? Little murky. But why should I nitpick? Who knows why we do anything in this world?

Back to being unfair (because I was so bored by this book)...

If you read it, you'll actually end up sympathizing with her husband Chanu..seriously. If you've started reading the book, you will understand what I mean. I know he's supposed to be some idiot windbag who talks like a bigshot at home but deals with the disappointed fragments of his dreams outside the home, but do we need 200 pages of his pathetic flaps to understand this??? And, if one could isolate the number of sentences or paragraphs that concerned the corns on his feet, could there be about 20 pages? Is this the same "brilliant book about things that matter" that Ian Jack of Granta refers to? People! Puh-leeze give me a break!

THE ONE REALLY GOOD THING ABOUT THIS BOOK is the story about Nazneen's sister. She writes letters to her sister detailing her life in Dhaka. The character Hasina is everything that Nazneen is not: angry, sad, happy, determined, loving, and alive. Her life is amazing. The letters alone saved the book. However, even this was ruined by Monica Ali. Why did Hasina's letters need to be written in some strange broken English or literally translated Bengali? If we can view Nazneen's life through grammatically correct English, why can't we understand Hasina in something gramatically correct? Is this to emphasize her distance? Whatever. Weird and frustrating to read.
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4

Sep 27, 2007

I don't know why they do it but they do it a lot - on the title page it says

Brick Lane : A Novel

And there I was expecting this oblong of printed material to be

Brick Lane : A New Kind of Vacuum Cleaner

Anyway. Other reviews would have you believe that this book is terrifically boring, beaten only for tediousness by Some Variations in the Major Groups of Plankton of the Kamchatka Peninsula Littoral by R.K. Litkynshovskaya and P.I. Podgorna-Bialaczczka. So why did I really enjoy this novel? Could I don't know why they do it but they do it a lot - on the title page it says

Brick Lane : A Novel

And there I was expecting this oblong of printed material to be

Brick Lane : A New Kind of Vacuum Cleaner

Anyway. Other reviews would have you believe that this book is terrifically boring, beaten only for tediousness by Some Variations in the Major Groups of Plankton of the Kamchatka Peninsula Littoral by R.K. Litkynshovskaya and P.I. Podgorna-Bialaczczka. So why did I really enjoy this novel? Could it be that after a while I accepted my fate in the same way our heroine accepts hers, and my heart, like hers, fluttered when the slightest thing out of the ordinary happened? Or maybe I'm a Samuel Beckett fan and don't realise it. It's very true I do love the music of Steve Reich, which could never be described as dramatic, and indeed has often been compared to Some Variations in the Major Groups of Plankton of the Kamchatka Peninsula Littoral. But really I think I prefer the company of Nazneen and her very aggravating husband Chanu over, say, Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal any day of the week. Not to mention most of my work colleagues and family members. Of course it may be true that should Monica Ali choose to write a graceful and compassionate novel about any of that rabble, I'd be glued to that too. ...more
0

Apr 03, 2016

I would have to force myself to finish reading this book and quite frankly I don't want to. Neither like nor care what happens to these characters.
3

Oct 29, 2015

I thought this book was really interesting as it gave an insight into being an immigrant in England and it also gave insights into life in Bangladesh. Of course, Monica Ali has been scrutinised because she doesn't speak fluent Bangladeshi etc and I know nothing about the being an immigrant myself but I felt like the representation she gave felt really authentic.

I thought the characters were brilliant. They were really interesting and I felt like nearly every one of them added to the story. They I thought this book was really interesting as it gave an insight into being an immigrant in England and it also gave insights into life in Bangladesh. Of course, Monica Ali has been scrutinised because she doesn't speak fluent Bangladeshi etc and I know nothing about the being an immigrant myself but I felt like the representation she gave felt really authentic.

I thought the characters were brilliant. They were really interesting and I felt like nearly every one of them added to the story. They weren't just devices to the main character, in fact, I would say Nazneen was sort of like a device for them to be portrayed. Nazneen was a silent observer. The amount of things she observed was unreal. Even if a character didn't say much, Nazneen observed what they were doing physically and that gave us such an insight into characters. I feel like Nazneen was the way she was because Ali wanted her that way. I thought Nazneen's inner-monologue was similar to that of a third person narration that sees all.

The story was kind of slow but for good reason. Nothing thrilling or exciting happened and that's because it mainly focused on a family. So because of that the pacing was sometimes unbearable but I can understand why. I actually liked the ending a lot. I think it ends with a bit of hope and maybe that's a bit of a cop-out but I'm a sucker for hopeful endings.

I would recommend this book to people who think that they'll enjoy it but just be aware it's quite slow. I would probably read another book by Monica Ali. ...more
4

Dec 31, 2013

There's a good reason that Brick Lane was short-listed for the Man Booker award, and was nominated for a whole slew of other prizes too. It is just brilliant. That doesn't mean that it is necessarily fun to read. (A 16 year old Bangladeshi girl is married off to a 40 year old guy in London, and goes there to start a new life in almost poverty. No, not exactly a "fun" topic) However, the descriptions are brilliant, and the story itself is mesmerizing. The subplots are rich and believable. You There's a good reason that Brick Lane was short-listed for the Man Booker award, and was nominated for a whole slew of other prizes too. It is just brilliant. That doesn't mean that it is necessarily fun to read. (A 16 year old Bangladeshi girl is married off to a 40 year old guy in London, and goes there to start a new life in almost poverty. No, not exactly a "fun" topic…) However, the descriptions are brilliant, and the story itself is mesmerizing. The subplots are rich and believable. You really feel like you've learned a lot about what it means to be a Blangladeshi immigrant to the UK.

However, it does a lot more, namely it urges the reader to think about:

* The imposition of passivity on a woman, to the point of making passivity a virtue, something that certainly transcends cultures and limits self-expectations (a theme throughout the book is the main character being left to her Fate at birth)
* The experience of any immigrant, and the complex attitudes that the immigrant experience generates both towards the new culture and the old
* The deplorable status of women in Bangladesh
* The wrenching realization that one is married to an idiot
* The nature of marriage itself
* The hypocrites that exist in any culture and religion (very ironic that the shameless usurer in the book is named Mrs. Islam)
* The way that living in a specific slice of history influences one's opinions and values

Although this book is rather long, the author probably needed the length to address her varied themes. It's a serious book, but often hilarious. It's uplifting, because it speaks of women's empowerment. And it kindled a desire in me to learn more about Bangladesh and its history -- and perhaps go there some day.
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3

Jul 09, 2012

This is not what I was expecting. Dont ask me what I was expecting because it is not a definable quantity and defies explanation but when I bought this book on a whim because I liked the juxtaposition of white background and colourful printed letters, this was not it.

Ali has created a book for those who love the microscopic and want a very detailed picture of a very limited section of space and time. Hold on you might say, this book moves from 1985 and Nazneens arrival in England all the way up This is not what I was expecting. Don’t ask me what I was expecting because it is not a definable quantity and defies explanation but when I bought this book on a whim because I liked the juxtaposition of white background and colourful printed letters, this was not it.

Ali has created a book for those who love the microscopic and want a very detailed picture of a very limited section of space and time. Hold on you might say, this book moves from 1985 and Nazneen’s arrival in England all the way up to and beyond 9/11 so how can that be microscopic. That’s a good 15 years plus some. Yes, it does cover this ground but it covers this ground in the same way that Bill and Ted covered all the major periods of history in their righteous phone box. By jumping about a lot with no real overall picture. But anyway it’s obvious that Monica Ali did not set out to create a worldly overview. Instead it is and was always about Nazneen. And it is through the eyes of Nazneen and her sisters epistles that the story is told.

What’s the story? Primarily that life as a bride in an arranged marriage, on a council estate in a country where you don’t speak the language and hold no currency (I think I may have accidentally started quoting a Paul Simon song but never mind), is going to be largely devoid of joy. And it is up to a point. However the other side of the coin is that joy can be found in the most unpromising of places and under surprising circumstances and that just because your life is one way, does not mean it always has to be so. The power of change lies within you. Shocked? Really, you’re not? I wasn’t either but hey, it’s part of the story so it has to go in the review.

The cast of characters who are fully fleshed out are fairly limited; Nazneen, her husband Chanu and their two daughters Shahana and Bibi are all well developed -you might find them dull, but that’s another issue. Karim is an object of lust with eminently describable forearms and mercurial dress sense and the usurer Mrs Islam, friendly Razia, and unemotional Dr Azad are all quite memorable.

For me, youngest daughter Bibi was the stand-out character (she is the reason for the third star). She doesn’t say anything - well maybe a couple of lines but Monica Ali imbued her with a sense of personality purely through the descriptions of her physical stance, her hair-chewing proclivities and her general watchfulness that gave me a greater sense of her motivations and personality than all of Chanu’s chatter or Mrs Islam’s outrageous theatrics.

If you want a big story where a lot happens then you need to walk away from this book immediately or be endlessly annoyed. If you want a tiny but very detailed slice of life pie to chew on then bring a plate and a fork because you’ve found it.
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1

Nov 03, 2010

Monica Ali's prose is the literary equivalent of a curry with too many cardamom seeds.
1

Aug 08, 2007

I desperately wanted to like this book. Having lived the immigrant, foreigner, displaced person lifestyle for so long, I wanted this book to capture everything that it means to have lost links with my own personal history in the effort to fit into the culture that's welcomed me into it's monied bosom.

But Nazneen is not me. She's a village girl without education and more importantly, the confidence education brings to a traveller navigating a foreign world.

I snacked with her in the dead of I desperately wanted to like this book. Having lived the immigrant, foreigner, displaced person lifestyle for so long, I wanted this book to capture everything that it means to have lost links with my own personal history in the effort to fit into the culture that's welcomed me into it's monied bosom.

But Nazneen is not me. She's a village girl without education and more importantly, the confidence education brings to a traveller navigating a foreign world.

I snacked with her in the dead of night, desperate to fill a void opened when I left my home and all things familiar. But when she wandered into meeting of revolutionaries looking for acceptance, I stood at the door and wondered whether she had left her brain at home.

And really, why are her sister's letters from home so poorly written. I've never seen a native speaker butcher her own language to the point of becoming incomprehensible as brutally as Hasina does. Of course I worry about the poor girl struggling to face the fate she foolishly chose for herself, but must she do it in such a jarring manner.

I wish I hadn't bother to finish the book. I knew how it was going to end early on, but like looking to see what happened in a car crash, I couldn't tear my eyes until the book was over.

My time was wasted. And that I resent most of all ...more
2

Jun 24, 2017

Rating: 2* of five

A long succession of standard tropes, cliched dialogue, and stock characters made somehow new and fresh by the fact that they're all of Indian descent.

Frankly, I found it lazy and felt the decent author behind the blandness of the book should be given a "D"--not passing, not failing, not much of anything at all. I'll pass on this one's career. Returned to my facility's library shelves, with a slight twinge of guilt for not putting it in the little free library just down the Rating: 2* of five

A long succession of standard tropes, cliched dialogue, and stock characters made somehow new and fresh by the fact that they're all of Indian descent.

Frankly, I found it lazy and felt the decent author behind the blandness of the book should be given a "D"--not passing, not failing, not much of anything at all. I'll pass on this one's career. Returned to my facility's library shelves, with a slight twinge of guilt for not putting it in the little free library just down the boardwalk instead. ...more
4

Mar 02, 2008

Nazneen is the eldest of two girls, growing up in a village in Bangladesh. Her younger sister Hasina runs away to marry the young man she is in love with, and not long after that, when she is eighteen, Nazneen is married to a man twenty years older than her and sent to live with him in London.

Her husband, Chanu, is kind and very talkative. They live in a dingy flat on an estate where she makes friends with some other Bangladeshi women. Her world is narrow and small, consisting of the flat and Nazneen is the eldest of two girls, growing up in a village in Bangladesh. Her younger sister Hasina runs away to marry the young man she is in love with, and not long after that, when she is eighteen, Nazneen is married to a man twenty years older than her and sent to live with him in London.

Her husband, Chanu, is kind and very talkative. They live in a dingy flat on an estate where she makes friends with some other Bangladeshi women. Her world is narrow and small, consisting of the flat and Brick Lane, where she walks one step behind her husband. She is not encouraged to learn English, or even leave the estate. But gradually she moves more and more into the world outside, though all that she knows is what Chanu tells her - and he "is an educated man", as he is constantly saying. They have three children, two girls after the first little boy dies, and some twelve years after she arrived in England she is swept up in an affair with a young man, Karim. Slowly, so slowly, she begins to speak for herself, but always there is this need to be a good, dutiful wife. To cut the skin around the corns on her husband's feet, to cook and keep the flat tidy, to be Chanu's audience as he lectures, to watch as his plans and ambitions fall flat one by one.

The story is told from Nazneen's perspective, sliced through with letters from her sister in Dhaka, whose story is easily more tragic. Nazneen, quiet and unknowledgable, is like a blank canvass for the opinions and impressions of others. When she asks a direct question, rarely is it answered. We see her world, small as it is though at times shaken by greater deeds (like nine-eleven), through her watchful, patient eyes. Many things are shown rather than told, making the real situation easily discernible and very rich and layered.

It is beautifully, skilfully written. A bit slow maybe, but with great impact. I can't deny that it didn't affect me, and bring me down a bit at times. The story slips into a secret place, shines a light on a place generally ignored and dismissed and undervalued: the housewife's domain and life. The politics, the aspirations, the hatred against Muslims, the clash of cultures and struggle to assimilate without abandoning your own culture, it's all there. But through it all there is strength in these women, and determination. The struggle Nazneen goes through, with her own conscience, her own desires and wants so long put aside, her fondness for the often revolting - but not cruel, no, he never beats her - Chanu (a surprisingly sympathetic character, in that it's easy to feel sorry for him), while gang wars and drug abuse and abusive husbands play out in both England and Bangladesh, all creates a vivid portrayal of an immigrant experience common to London, Paris, Sydney, Toronto. Relevant, topical, at times heartarchingly sad, Brick Lane is like Nazneen, watching silently, presenting a story without spoken judgement, biding its time, and at the end, so very very rewarding. ...more
4

Oct 17, 2013

I did enjoy this novel; it goes at a good pace and there is a warmth about it that I appreciated. The structure of the novel is interesting. Nazneen is born in a village in Bangladesh; when old enough she is married to Chanu, a much older man who lives in England. She goes to England as a bride in her teens in 1985. The story follows her over the next years (until 2002) as she has children and mixes with the Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane. The novel also cuts to her sister Hasina back I did enjoy this novel; it goes at a good pace and there is a warmth about it that I appreciated. The structure of the novel is interesting. Nazneen is born in a village in Bangladesh; when old enough she is married to Chanu, a much older man who lives in England. She goes to England as a bride in her teens in 1985. The story follows her over the next years (until 2002) as she has children and mixes with the Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane. The novel also cuts to her sister Hasina back in Bangladesh periodically. There are memorable characters in the Bangladeshi community, each coping with being in a strange culture in different ways; some by blending in others by keeping apart.
Nazneen’s husband Chanu turns out to be a decent man (he doesn’t beat her); he wants a simple village girl to look after him and doesn’t allow Nazneen to learn English, as she doesn’t need it. The novel is tragic and comic, although the comedy is restrained, it is still there. Ali describes physicality very well; you do get a sense of the characters by the descriptions of physical habits and tics, by the way they wear their clothes, fiddle with their hair and so on.
Nazneen develops as the novel goes on and gradually one gets a sense of her becoming rounded as an individual, liberated almost. There are also grand themes; religion and its relation to culture, characters cut off from their origins and adrift in a foreign land, adultery, poverty, family tensions; all the stuff of everyday life and high drama. There are correlations with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. It is about how much control we have over our lives; can you go back to a dream? It isn’t a simple clash of cultures; it is more nuanced; even Karim, a devout Muslim, is a complex and interesting character. Brick Lane is also a novel about place and the geographical restriction of Nazneen’s life adds to the power of her character development. I know this isn’t a universally loved novel, but I enjoyed it.
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3

Nov 22, 2017

This book left me with quite mixed feelings to be honest. I wanted to love it, its been compared to White Teeth by Zadie Smith which is one of my all time faves, but I thought it lacked the vibrancy and liveliness of White Teeth, despite both of them portraying the lives of immigrants in London.
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Brick Lane follows Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London for an arranged marriage. I think the slowness of the book comes from the passivity of Nazneen, as she doesnt really do much for much This book left me with quite mixed feelings to be honest. I wanted to love it, it’s been compared to White Teeth by Zadie Smith which is one of my all time faves, but I thought it lacked the vibrancy and liveliness of White Teeth, despite both of them portraying the lives of immigrants in London.
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Brick Lane follows Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London for an arranged marriage. I think the slowness of the book comes from the passivity of Nazneen, as she doesn’t really do much for much of the first half. Her husband, Chanu, is such an interesting character though. He is tragic, annoying, inspiring, and hilarious all at once, and I really felt for him trying to find an outlet for his passions in a system where he doesn’t feel appreciated!
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My favourite parts of the book were the passages describing anecdotes from Nazneen’s childhood in Bangladesh - I wish there were more of them! The letters from Hasina, Nazneen’s sister, were also interesting (not to mention heartbreaking) but the extremely stilted English that they’re written in is off-putting and tiresome to read. It seemed to me that the first batch were written far better than all the others - her writing seemed to deteriorate, I thought it was inconsistent.
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Overall, plenty of compelling parts, such as Nazneen’s friend Razia’s struggle with her wayward son, but too many dry patches that dragged, and a romantic subplot that I didn’t care for. Ali did a great job of depicting the rising racial tensions in the early 2000s though!
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1

Apr 16, 2008

It's a bit draconian to give a book that sells so well only one star, but that's my rating for a book I don't make it through. I read a full third of this book waiting for the protagonist (Nanzeen) to be interesting and it didn't happen. The one highlight was the small window into Bengali/Pakistani culture (before chapter 2 moves to Britain). It's a book about fate and how one acts as a follower in life. And the exceedingly slow learning process Nanzeen goes through when she starts to discover It's a bit draconian to give a book that sells so well only one star, but that's my rating for a book I don't make it through. I read a full third of this book waiting for the protagonist (Nanzeen) to be interesting and it didn't happen. The one highlight was the small window into Bengali/Pakistani culture (before chapter 2 moves to Britain). It's a book about fate and how one acts as a follower in life. And the exceedingly slow learning process Nanzeen goes through when she starts to discover she can shape her life and maybe that's not wrong. Actually we didn't get quite that far in a third of the book. Needless to say I didn't identify much with the main character, and reading about her abhorrent life was just too much work for what is meant to be an enjoyable activity. I'll blame it on my book group. ...more
5

Apr 18, 2018

Monica Ali is able to capture  the sense of discombobulation felt by both both first generation immigrants; whether it is the Shakespeare-loving Chanu, who on the one hand sees himself as a lover of English literature, a sensitive, educated and artistically minded man who missed his calling as the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, but on the hand deeply feels the deep-seated prejudices he experiences in Britain and begins to hate the modernity taking over the country, a kind of walking Monica Ali is able to capture  the sense of discombobulation felt by both both first generation immigrants; whether it is the Shakespeare-loving Chanu, who on the one hand sees himself as a lover of English literature, a sensitive, educated and artistically minded man who missed his calling as the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, but on the hand deeply feels the deep-seated prejudices he experiences in Britain and begins to hate the modernity taking over the country, a kind of walking contradiction he harks after an idyllic British past which never existed, yet resents the Westernisation of a Bengali culture which he, outside a love of Tagore, he is never really a part on.  On the other hand is his wife Nazneen, or whom marriage at first is a kind of trap-for all his profession for being a liberal, Chanu represents some of the worst aspects of misogyny of  first generation Bangladeshi immigrants; rarely allowed to leave the house, not given permission to be educated, Nazneen feels trapped in a country she not only cannot, but is not allowed to comprehend. On top of this she feels emotionally stifled by becoming a sounding board for Chanu's frequently sententious rambles which she is unable to fully comprehend. Gradually she is able to gain a sense of self, culminating in an affair with the energetic if somewhat mediocre Karim; this acts as a catalyst for her self-actualisation, that she is able to, for the first time in her life, treated as a fully rounded human being and able to experience emotions outside the sense of obedience expected of her, that she is no longer just a daughter, wife or sister but a woman with her own sense of independence. Naturally, like her early attempts at marital rebellion when Chanu rejects her request for her sister to move to England, her affair goes un-noticed by her husband who meanders through life labouring under a series of illusions, blind to what is going on around him. It is difficult to describe the relationship which exists between the two, Chanu, despite the bluster and blindness seems to genuinely care for Nazneen, likewise Nazneen, despite the occasional sense of disgust she feels for him, seems to value the innate sense of kindness in Chanu, the sense of comfort he brings. In many ways Ali describes the emotions which marriages, especially arranged ones, often bring; comfort and convenience.

 The secondary characters who inhabit the novel, from Chanu and Nazneen's daughters Shahana and Bibi to Mrs Islam help add depth to the novel-most of the secondary characters represent an important part of the immigrant experience, whether it be clashes with narrow-minded nationalists or acclimatising to life as a second-generation Bangladeshi girl in London, 'Brick Lane' is a nuanced and well-written depiction of two generations of a Bangladeshi family in a fast-changing world.  ...more
4

Jan 23, 2008

$9.99 kindle
My favorite quotes from "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali

Amma said to her daughters: "If God wanted us to ask questions, he would have made us men" (53).

"Razia waved the lollipop in front of Raqib's [the toddler's:] face. He watched it devotedly. He became its disciple. For its sake, he would sacrifice everything" (65).

Hasina on corruption in Bangladeshi education: "University is also close down. All students hold protest. They rallying for right to cheat. In my heart I support. Some who $9.99 kindle
My favorite quotes from "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali

Amma said to her daughters: "If God wanted us to ask questions, he would have made us men" (53).

"Razia waved the lollipop in front of Raqib's [the toddler's:] face. He watched it devotedly. He became its disciple. For its sake, he would sacrifice everything" (65).

Hasina on corruption in Bangladeshi education: "University is also close down. All students hold protest. They rallying for right to cheat. In my heart I support. Some who afford pay professor for tutoring buy exam paper. To be fair all must have mean for equal cheating" (105).

"Karim had never even been to Bangladesh. Nazneen felt a stab of pity. Karim was born a foreigner. When he spoke Bengali, he stammered. Why had it puzzled her? She saw only what she wanted to see. Karim did not have his place in the world. That was why he defended it" (335). ...more
1

Jan 03, 2008

I hated this book. I found it impossible to get through and this at a time when I was utterly obsessed with novels based in and around women from India. I couldn't finish it and am continually surprised to see it so favorably reviewed and praised. Usually I'm in agreement about a great book, but this one I just don't share the feelings on.
Although i see that other Good Reads readers felt similiarly, which somehow makes me feel better.
4

Jul 25, 2009

Brick Lane is an interesting book. The central character, Nazneen is totally passive, almost too passive. It should be noted, however, that Monica Ali does a good job of setting up that passivity. From the very first page of the book, the reader is shown and told that Nazneen is passive, that she was raised to leave things to fate.

The problem with the passiveness of the central character is that it can make the book insufferable, you want her to do. It is here that I have to give Ali points. Brick Lane is an interesting book. The central character, Nazneen is totally passive, almost too passive. It should be noted, however, that Monica Ali does a good job of setting up that passivity. From the very first page of the book, the reader is shown and told that Nazneen is passive, that she was raised to leave things to fate.

The problem with the passiveness of the central character is that it can make the book insufferable, you want her to do. It is here that I have to give Ali points. The bulk of the novel is told though the eyes of Nazneen and when it is not Nazneen we are hearing, it is her sister. Because of these characters and how they were raised, the reader must puzzle things out because the woman are silent on such issues. For instance, what exactly happened to Hasina when she left her first husband. Hasina never directly tells us, but an attentive reader knows. The same is true about Nazneen. It seems that though a good portion of the book Nazneen is heavily depressed. In fact, Ali does a very good job of conveying this, from the state of the house to the state of the food to relationships. This book thrives on the main characters not saying things, and having small details speak. Its interesting, and something I did not find annoying. In many ways, the book is about what takes place in silence.


Ali could also make Nazneen's husband Chanu into a brute of a man, but she doesn't. In fact, Chanu is a sympathetic and believable character. When Nazneen hurts him, we feel his pain even though we can understand why Nazneen chose to do what she did.


I'm not sure how accurately the book captures the London immigrant's experience, but it does display a good sense of time and space. ...more
5

Apr 01, 2016

Loved this book. The author makes the everyday and often sorrowful events of this woman's life poetic. It is about ordinary life, struggles, hardships, conflicts of faith, duty and culture, and yet for all that it is also beautiful... Giving the details of the good in life which comes with the bad... Showing Nazneen's love for her children, her understanding of god and faith, her sister's search for the life she wants... and although it wasn't always easy to read, it was captivating. The world Loved this book. The author makes the everyday and often sorrowful events of this woman's life poetic. It is about ordinary life, struggles, hardships, conflicts of faith, duty and culture, and yet for all that it is also beautiful... Giving the details of the good in life which comes with the bad... Showing Nazneen's love for her children, her understanding of god and faith, her sister's search for the life she wants... and although it wasn't always easy to read, it was captivating. The world of Nazneen came alive with scents... The lime, the spices, the earth and the rain. And I found myself oddly sorry for Chanu, Nazneen's husband who strives and strives to be known as an educated man, and yet never manages to achieve the dreams he has. Surrounded by his certificates, and never really seeing that his wife is so much more than the "simple village girl" he married, Chanu is as easy to sympathize with , for me, as he was to dislike. His arrogance and inability to see anything beyond his own wishes are so easy to dislike, and yet he fails so many times to become the man he dreams of being that I cannot help but feel for him. To create characters as complex as Chanu and Nazneen, not to mention the host of others, (Mrs Islam being rather like a Dickensian baddie to me) is truly a sign of great talent.

Its the kind of book which demands you pay attention, miss one sentence and you miss a huge part of the story. Its a keeper, going on the book shelf to be read again and again. Really enjoyed this book. ...more
4

Apr 01, 2008

This book impressed me because of its immersiveness. Not only in terms of time and place, although that was very well handled, but mostly in terms of character. There are few modern human experiences that could be farther from my own than those of a woman born and raised in Bangladesh relocating to London after an arranged marriage to a man already living there. But I found the main character of Brick Lane, Nazneen, to be very relatable, to the point where I ended up totally immersed in her This book impressed me because of its immersiveness. Not only in terms of time and place, although that was very well handled, but mostly in terms of character. There are few modern human experiences that could be farther from my own than those of a woman born and raised in Bangladesh relocating to London after an arranged marriage to a man already living there. But I found the main character of Brick Lane, Nazneen, to be very relatable, to the point where I ended up totally immersed in her story and her perspective. That was a pretty heart-wrenching experience, honestly, because Nazneen's story is one of disappointment and fear and powerlessness, right up until just before the very end. This is one of those books which is beautiful, but in which the beauty comes almost totally from sadness. It doesn't exactly have a happy ending in the fairytale sense, but I was pretty pleased with the way things were left by the final page. ...more
4

Dec 03, 2014

This is a well-told story about Bangladeshi immigrants to England, told from the point of view of a woman, Nazneen, who entered into an arranged marriage with an older man who had been in London for a while. Three lines in the book captures the sense of belonging or lack of belonging, that is the main takeaway: And most of all she thought of what he (Karim, a politically active young man, son of Bangladeshi immigrants) had that she and Hasina (her sister back in Bangladesh) and Chanu (Nazneen's This is a well-told story about Bangladeshi immigrants to England, told from the point of view of a woman, Nazneen, who entered into an arranged marriage with an older man who had been in London for a while. Three lines in the book captures the sense of belonging or lack of belonging, that is the main takeaway: And most of all she thought of what he (Karim, a politically active young man, son of Bangladeshi immigrants) had that she and Hasina (her sister back in Bangladesh) and Chanu (Nazneen's husband) sought but could not find. The thing that he had and inhabited so easily. A place in the world.

There is also attention to the trials of marriage, perhaps particularly an arranged one, to a basically good but ineffective, flawed man: Nazneen heard Chanu suppress a belch. She wanted to go over to him and stroke his forehead. She wanted to get up from the table and walk out of the door and never see him again.

Humor is low key and wry: "The cigarette." It had rolled from the table and was burning on the green-and-purple rug. "Shit. Your rug is spoiled." "I don't know, said Nazneen. " if a rug is already green and purple, it is very hard to say that it is spoiled." And: Three dealers were arrested. Job opportunities opened up.

I don't know Brick Lane in London, but there is a sense that this does a good job of capturing Bangladeshi immigrant life there. The story towards the end goes on too long, but good to say, Nazneen has built a lot of confidence, and the future looks good for her. ...more
3

Sep 16, 2012

Nazneen is a Bangladeshi village girl who has just come of age when her marriage is arranged to an older man living in the distant fantasy of London. Brick Lane chronicles the story of her marriage, her children, the public housing complex she lives in, and her struggle to make sense of her role in a world very different from the one she was raised in.

Among the more interesting parts of the book were the outlines of the cultural challenges of Bangladeshis living in England. I learned a lot about Nazneen is a Bangladeshi village girl who has just come of age when her marriage is arranged to an older man living in the distant fantasy of London. Brick Lane chronicles the story of her marriage, her children, the public housing complex she lives in, and her struggle to make sense of her role in a world very different from the one she was raised in.

Among the more interesting parts of the book were the outlines of the cultural challenges of Bangladeshis living in England. I learned a lot about a community that was unfamiliar to me, and that kept my interest for a time.

As the story progressed, however, I found myself struggling to continue. The author uses letters from Nazneen's sister back in Bangladesh to detail the horrors of life in that challenged country, and there were times the story felt strangely predictable in its recitation of the major tragedies of overt violence and the lesser tragedies of accumulated disappointments.

Nazneen is also a very passive character, and although the book traces her evolving relationship to her own will, it does so in an agonizingly slow fashion. The center of this book drags so heavily I nearly abandoned it. Ultimately, I'm glad I continued because the pace of the story picked up and lead to a more satisfying ending than I would have expected. I would recommend it primarily to readers with an interest in intercultural issues and a lot of patience.

...more
1

Jun 20, 2014

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. One of the most awful books I have ever read. Ignoring the outwardly prejudiced attitude towards Sylhetis by a Dhaka-born writer, Ali chose to further insult the protagonist's culture by allowing the Sylheti community (within the book) to ostensibly reveal these negative stereotypes creating a sense of collective self-hatred. Another plot hole I found was the "broken English" within her sister's letters - the protagonist moved to England and can only say two words in English but her sister, who One of the most awful books I have ever read. Ignoring the outwardly prejudiced attitude towards Sylhetis by a Dhaka-born writer, Ali chose to further insult the protagonist's culture by allowing the Sylheti community (within the book) to ostensibly reveal these negative stereotypes creating a sense of collective self-hatred. Another plot hole I found was the "broken English" within her sister's letters - the protagonist moved to England and can only say two words in English but her sister, who did not once leave Bangladesh and experienced an array of upheaval, can write well in English asides from the improper sentence structures? It didn't make sense to me. If it was the letter translated from Bengali, there was really no need to make the translation sound "broken". It made reading the letters seem disingenuous and irritating to follow. The protagonist herself was entirely too passive to be able to pass off as a metaphor and lastly, her writing style was completely dull. The death of her own child was shown completely blank without emotion (unintentionally). Not a single positive thing to say about this book, do not recommend this to anyone. ...more
4

Apr 26, 2015

A rich, detailed novel with an interesting range of varied and fully-developed characters. If I found myself wishing the protagonist was less passive, I at least understood exactly why she was the way she was, which is more than I've managed with some books.

Covering an ambitious span of years - from Nazneen's youth in Bangladesh to early middle-age in the East End of London - Ali's style is absorbing enough that it never feels rushed. The only thing stopping me giving this a 5 is that I felt A rich, detailed novel with an interesting range of varied and fully-developed characters. If I found myself wishing the protagonist was less passive, I at least understood exactly why she was the way she was, which is more than I've managed with some books.

Covering an ambitious span of years - from Nazneen's youth in Bangladesh to early middle-age in the East End of London - Ali's style is absorbing enough that it never feels rushed. The only thing stopping me giving this a 5 is that I felt like some threads were left dangling, and a few sections dragged a little.

That said, I loved the strength of female relationships throughout the story, the way the characters were developed and the way no-one was presented as wholly good or wholly bad. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, makes bad judgements and mistakes, but it all feels very relatable and human, even if you're not from the community at the novel's centre. Add in the sharp social and political observations about the immigrant and ethnic minority experience, and you end up with a novel thoroughly deserving of all the praise that's been heaped on it. One of the most enjoyable books I've read in a while. ...more
4

Nov 12, 2019

When I first picked up this book 10 years ago, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to tell the young wife to stop lusting after the young political firebrand ("You're married, for god sakes!"), but Monica Ali's excellent writing made me empathize with her protagonist, leaving me torn. Nazneen is much younger than her husband and is finding her footing in a new country (England), having been brought from Bangladesh after her arranged marriage. Docile and obedient, as she was trained to be by her When I first picked up this book 10 years ago, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to tell the young wife to stop lusting after the young political firebrand ("You're married, for god sakes!"), but Monica Ali's excellent writing made me empathize with her protagonist, leaving me torn. Nazneen is much younger than her husband and is finding her footing in a new country (England), having been brought from Bangladesh after her arranged marriage. Docile and obedient, as she was trained to be by her cultural upbringing (as my own mother was), she is discovering new freedoms in her adopted country. And as she matures, she gains confidence in transgressions she would never have succumbed to back home. A lovely, nuanced, passionate novel. ...more
5

Aug 11, 2017

A wonderfully written novel about the life of a Bangladeshi woman living as an immigrant in East London.

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