Brick Lane by Monica Ali
A Novel

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Synopsis

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."
 

About Monica Ali

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Monica Ali was born October 20, 1967. She is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003.
 
Published September 29, 2003 by Scribner. 432 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Romance, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Humor & Entertainment, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Education & Reference. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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When Chanu falls into the clutches of the moneylender Mrs. Islam (a sinister figure straight out of Dickens), Nazneen becomes a breadwinner, doing piecework at home and thus meeting the middleman Kazim, who is also an activist fighting racism.

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The Guardian

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Salaam Brick Lane: A Year in the New East End by Tarquin Hall 256pp, John Murray, £16.99 When Jack London came to London in 1902, he stayed in Highgate and contacted Thomas Cook, the travel agent, for information on how best to approach his next stop - the East End.

Apr 16 2005 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

The Guardian

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Nazneen's daughter, Shahana, speaks English at home against her father's stipulation - "his stupid rule" (said transgressively in English).

May 29 2004 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

The Guardian

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Brick Lane by Monica Ali Doubleday £12.99, pp289 Monica Ali was famously voted one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists on the basis merely of the manuscript of this novel.

Jun 15 2003 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

The Guardian

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Brick Lane by Monica Ali 389pp, Doubleday, £12.99 When you begin Monica Ali's first novel, which catapulted her on to the Granta best young British novelists list before it was even published, you might be forgiven for feeling that the fuss has been a little overstated.

Jun 14 2003 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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After a brief opening section set in East Pakistan—Nazneen's younger sister, the beautiful Hasina, elopes in a love marriage, and the quiet, plain Nazneen is married off to an older man—Ali begins a meticulous exploration of Nazneen's life in London, where her husband has taken her to live.

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BC Books

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For the majority non-Londoners, Brick Lane is a market street in East London.

Jan 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

Book Reporter

Adding to Nazneen's worries is the fact that her sister Hasina still lives in Bangladesh, and Hasina's letters present a life even harder than Nazneen's.

Dec 23 2010 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

The Washington Post

her very birth, as Ali recounts, was a veritable fable on the power of fate: Her mother delivered her prematurely, and to all appearances Nazneen was stillborn.

Sep 16 2003 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

The Bookbag

Summary: Themes of cultural alienation, immigrant experience and personal growth dominate the book which can be also read just as a psychological story of a woman from her birth in a Bangladeshi village to 34 years later when she is a mother, wife, lover and worker in London's Tower Hamlets.

Mar 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Brick Lane: A Novel

About.com

Her mother relished telling Nanzeen the story of "How You Were Left To Your Fate": the lore of Nanzeen's first days on earth when death loitered over the starving baby who refused to eat or drink.

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London Review of Books

Walls and bus shelters are daubed with gang names – the Brick Lane Massive, Cannon Street Posse, Stepney Green Posse and the Shadwell Crew – that recall how, long before the Krays and the Richardsons, long before Jewish boxers like Jackie Berg and Battling Levinsky duked it out against all comers...

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Socialist Review

Where the film fails is in taking out some of the areas of the book that were more politically sensitive.

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Reader Rating for Brick Lane
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