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I bought Brick Lane from a charity shop a while back when I was out shopping with a friend. My friend had studied it in English lessons at school. She remembered it being good, so I bought it on her recommendation.
What is Brick Lane about?
Brick Lane follows the life of Nazneen, a young Bangladeshi woman who enters an arranged marriage and goes to live in London at the age of 18. It follows the ups and downs of her relationship with her husband, family and friends. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I won’t say what happens.
What I will say is that it gives a great insight into life in the Bangladeshi community living in London. It is set in the 80s up until 2002, so I don’t know whether things are still the same now, but it definitely provided a window into a world I knew nothing about.
What is it like to read?
Inside the front cover and on the first few pages, there are multiple reviews of this book from various newspapers and magazines. They all speak very highly about this book, especially about the fine writing style of Monica Ali. I agree with the reviews in that it is indeed great writing. Monica Ali somehow manages to paint a picture that you can visualise in detail, and relate to, but without boring the reader with long descriptions.
Despite this, to me, the book did not live up to the glowing reviews. It was readable, but I felt it moved too slowly and just wasn’t very exciting. I got halfway through the book and still felt like I was in the introductory stages, and waiting for things to start happening. I got three-quarters of the way through and still felt the same. By then I had come to the conclusion that not much was going to happen. It is definitely more of a thoughtful book rather than action-packed.
The main characters are likeable. Despite leading a very different life to Nazneen, I could relate to some of her feelings and experiences. There were quite a few minor characters in the book, and it was sometimes hard to remember who was who.
The story is also interspersed with letters from Nazneen’s sister Hasina who is still living in Bangladesh. This added variety, but I found myself skimming over them at times, especially as they are written in broken English which made them hard work to read.
A word of warning – I recommend avoiding reading the reviews in the front of the book first (like I did) because they give away certain pieces of information and clues about what happens, including the ending.
Would I recommend Brick Lane?
This book didn’t quite live up to the good things I had heard about it. Despite this, I did enjoy it and I would still recommend it. I think it’s best to approach this book as something that will make you think, and educate you about a different culture, rather than expecting a gripping storyline.
Monica Ali has written several more novels which I would certainly be open to reading. There has also been a film made of Brick Lane which I intend to watch. It will be interesting to see how the book adapts to film.
Have you read Brick Lane, or seen the film? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments.