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Brick Laneby Monica Ali
A phenomenally original novel that entwines Bangladeshi traditional beginnings with a gradual transformation into modern, multicultural life in contemporary London. Ali's narrator, Nazneen, holds all of her experiences close at hand and maintains a connection to both worlds considering fate and observation as her beacons. Expect to hear more from this potent and fresh literary voice.
"British critics have called her the next Zadie Smith, presumably because they're both young, nonwhite females who blasted onto the literary scene with Booker-nominated bestsellers about immigrant culture in London. But Ali displays none of Smith's pyrotechnics or her sprawling scope and scale. Biology aside, a better comparison would be with Anita Brookner, that non-young, blisteringly white matron of British fiction whose quiet incisive novels scrutinize the plight of lonely people.
The genius of Brick Lane lies in Ali's ability to make the peculiar universal while making what's familiar comically odd. Though it's a distinctly interior novel, the larger world resonates all along the edges with discordant strains of political and cultural disruption." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
Monica Ali's gorgeous first novel is the deeply moving story of one woman, Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage. Already hailed by the London Observer as "one of the most significant British novelists of her generation," Ali has written a stunningly accomplished debut about one outsider's quest to find her voice.
What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge.
Nazneen's inauspicious entry into the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu, a man old enough to be her father. Nazneen moves to London and, for years, keeps house, cares for her husband, and bears children, just as a girl from the village is supposed to do. But gradually she is transformed by her experience, and begins to question whether fate controls her or whether she has a hand in her own destiny.
Motherhood is a catalyst — Nazneen's daughters chafe against their father's traditions and pride — and to her own amazement, Nazneen falls in love with a young man in the community. She discovers both the complexity that comes with free choice and the depth of her attachment to her husband, her daughters, and her new world.
While Nazneen journeys along her path of self-realization, her sister, Hasina, rushes headlong at her life, first making a "love marriage," then fleeing her violent husband. Woven through the novel, Hasina's letters from Dhaka recount a world of overwhelming adversity. Shaped, yet not bound, by their landscapes and memories, both sisters struggle to dream — and live — beyond the rules prescribed for them.
Vivid, profoundly humane, and beautifully rendered, Brick Lane captures a world at once unimaginable and achingly familiar. And it establishes Monica Ali as a thrilling new voice in fiction. As Kirkus Reviews said, "She is one of those dangerous writers who see everything."
"Already one of the most significant British novelists of her generation." The Observer (London)
"Monica Ali's power as a storyteller, her wisdom and compassionate stance, make this remarkable novel a total-immersion experience. I was quickly taken over by the community, culture and vision she presents so forcefully."Amy Hempel, author of Tumble Home
"The joy of this book is its marriage of wonderful writer with a fresh, rich and hidden world...written with love and compassion for every struggling character in its pages." Evening Standard
"A humanely forgiving story about love....Brick Lane may be Ali's first novel, but it is written with a wisdom and skill that few authors attain in a lifetime." The Sunday Times
"Brick Lane is a brilliant book about things that matter." Ian Jack, Granta
"Like Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Ali's debut novel is set in multicultural London; but unlike Smith's antic, sprawling vision, Ali's is cool, confined, and unsparing. Meticulously following the circumscribed life of Nazneen, a sheltered, devoutly Muslim, married Bangladeshi garment worker, the novel depicts her experience through her own constricted and, to the reader, alien point of view. (Ali practices the self-effacement of the supremely confident writer as she subordinates her style to her protagonist's perspective.)" Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly
A stunningly accomplished debut and already an international sensation--the story of one outsider's quest to find her voice. What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge.
About the Author
MONICA ALI has been named by Granta as one of the twenty best young British novelists. She is the author of In the Kitchen, Alentejo Blue, and Brick Lane, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She lives in London with her husband and two children.
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