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Brick Lane CDby 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."
"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
"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
"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
"Brick Lane is a brilliant book about things that matter." Ian Jack, Granta
"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
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.
Vivid, deeply moving, and beautifully rendered, Brick Lane establishes Monica Ali as one of the most exciting new voices in fiction. Monica Ali is the only unpublished writer in the prestigious, once-in-a-decade Granta collection of the twenty best young British writers.
About the Author
MONICA ALI was born in Dhaka in Bangladesh. Her family moved to England in 1971 when she was 3 years old. She was educated at Oxford and lives in London.
ELIZABETH SASTRE has appeared in regional theater. She has a recurring role on As the World Turns and guest starred on Law and Order.
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