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Brick Lane

Monica Ali

Average Review Rating Average Rating 6/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Black Swan

Published : 2004

Copyright : Monica Ali 2004

ISBN-10 : PB 0-552-77115-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-552-77115-3

Publisher's Write-Up

At the tender age of eighteen, Nazneen's life is turned upside down. After an arranged marriage to a man twenty years her elder she exchanges her Bangladeshi village for a block of flats in London's East End. In this new world, where poor people can be fat and even dogs go on diets, she struggles to make sense of her existence - and to do her duty to her husband. A man of inflated ideas (and stomach), he sorely tests her compliance.

But Nazneen submits, as she must, to Fate and devotes her life to raising her family and slapping down her demons of discontent. Until she becomes aware of a young radical, Karim.

Against a background of escalating racial and gang conflict, they embark on an affair that finally forces Nazneen to take control of her life...


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Reader Reviews

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Review by Claire Mapletoft (080806) Rating (6/10)

Review by Claire Mapletoft
Rating 6/10
Let me be blunt. Let me be honest. I found that the only wondrous factor about this book was its ending. Not in a 'thank the lord it has ended' way, but because the ending is so stereotypically heart-warming that it was impossible for me, hardened woman that I am, not to melt at the words before me on the page.
The novel had started out progressively, I was getting into it, I had read further than page 50, and I was feeling satisfied. My £7.99 had been well spent. Then, around the middle of the novel, I felt... disheartened. My previous feelings of satisfaction had evaporated, and instead all I felt was frustration. Frustration that the plot seemed to be hovering between an explosion of events in cataclysmic form, or merely imploding silently, to end with no excitement, leaving the reader empty and with a rather large headache. A similar feeling to the one after New Year, if you will.

The book focuses upon the repressed wife of an immigrant in the Asian community of East London, and the affairs, family troubles, racial tensions and prejudices which ensure, culminating in the protagonist's longing for small-scale freedom. All very positive, I hear you cry. What is wrong with that? Well, strictly speaking, nothing at all. The account of racial tension and prejudice were by far the outstanding aspect of the novel. The aspect of repression of Muslim women as featured in this book was portrayed vividly, with no holds barred, but the novel seems to come to a dead halt somewhere in the middle. It is as though the author has run out of steam for the time being, and is saving her energies for the piece de resistance which is the ending. Events become limited, with the affair of the main character becoming painfully drawn out and remaining undeveloped. The monotony of the novel may portray the monotony of the focal character but, the point of a novel is to keep the storyline flowing nicely, with the odd event thrown in, not merely just to reiterate what has happened many times before.

The plot does eventually pick up around three quarters of the way through and my faith is reaffirmed in the novel, and I finally begin to enjoy it again. The ending as I mentioned before was finally what I had been waiting for for so long in this novel. It is simply magical, and brought a tear to my eye. I shall not come over all Scrooge and spoil the ending, that is for you, reader, to find out for yourself. My dear mother who also read the book shared the same opinion as myself, but instead felt that the ending was a disappointment, stating 'I thought more would have happened, it seemed to build up to so much'. Just goes to show, what glove fits one hand, might not fit the other, apple falls far from the tree etc., etc.

The significance of this novel derives mainly from the escalating social tensions among the white and Muslim communities across the world following the atrocities of 9/11. To be honest, while 9/11 is touched upon briefly, there appears to be no real account of the increase in racism and race provoked attacks which occurred in London following 9/11. Considering the themes of this book it would have added to the scope of the novel, but alas no, it was not to be.

However, I would recommend readers who are interested to bag a copy of this book, as the social and political context in which the novel is written has never been as relevant as it is now. The slow nature of this novel does not necessarily mean it is a poor novel, in fact it is enchantingly written and the descriptions of Brick Lane are as vibrant as the street itself. If there is one reason for which the book should be recognised, it is its context and the insightful knowledge of Ali. Favourite new novel? No. Favourite new ending? Definitely.
Claire Mapletoft (8th August 2006)

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