BRICK LANE by Monica Ali ( 2003) read in April 2010-05-07

 

This is a book which we all enjoyed.

 

Nazreen , an intelligent , uneducated girl from Bangladesh is sent to England at the age of eighteen to marry Chanu and to live in Brick Lane. Chanu , who works for the local council, treats her with civility but no depth of feeling . He is ambitious taking courses with the O.U. and reading classic English literature. He looks to better himself but does not get the promotion he craves. He becomes a disappointed man.


Nazreen struggles to make a life for herself within this new community. She is morally a good person and a dutiful wife and mother to two daughters. She lives as best she can joining a local group, getting employment in a factory and finding friends amongst the local women.She maintains contact with her sister, Hasina, via letters and Hasina’s life is also a main thread in the book. However Nazreen is not a happy person and shocks herself when she becomes involved in an affair with a young radical Muslim, Kamin.
Eventually the affair ends. Chanu wishes to take the family back to Bangadesh but by this time Nazreen sees that the future for herself and her daughters is in England and Chanu departs alone.


This brief overview does not show how well written and detailed this book is. The characters are believable.The relationships between the family is sad, often painful and based on unattainable wishes and nostalgia for the past. The book presents facts such as the Oldam riots , September 11th and issues of race truthfully an sensitively. There are also light and comic touches.However the book does dip in parts, probably due to it being overlong. Another point that raised discussion in our group was the way Ali uses letters from Hasina to keep the reader informed of changes. These are written in broken English and although we could give some rationale for this we found it an unnecessary distraction.


This book is full of characters and events. Primarily it shows the development of Nazreen from a young niaive girl who survives loneliness with courage and becomes a strong women.It is a book that takes the reader on a journey, sometimes painful, into a different culture. It is a good read and we would recommend it.