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Brick Lane Paperback – 23 Oct 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; Film Tie-in edition edition (23 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552774456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552774451
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

With its gritty Tower Hamlets setting, this sharply observed contemporary novel about the life of an Asian immigrant girl deals cogently with issues of love, cultural difference and the human spirit. The pre-publicity hype about Brick Lane was precisely the kind to set alarm bells ringing (we've heard it so often before), but, for once, the excitement is fully justified: Monica Ali's debut novel demonstrates that there is a new voice in modern fiction to be reckoned with.

Nazneen is a teenager forced into an arranged marriage with a man considerably older than her--a man whose expectations of life are so low that misery seems to stretch ahead for her. Fearfully leaving the sultry oppression of her Bangladeshi village, Nazneen finds herself cloistered in a small flat in a high-rise block in the East End of London. Because she speaks no English, she is obliged to depend totally on her husband. But it becomes apparent that, of the two, she is the real survivor: more able to deal with the ways of the world, and a better judge of the vagaries of human behaviour. She makes friends with another Asian girl, Razia, who is the conduit to her understanding of the unsettling ways of her new homeland.

This is a novel of genuine insight, with the kind of characterisation that reminds the reader at every turn just what the novel form is capable of. Every character (Nazneen, her disappointed husband and her resourceful friend Razia) is drawn with the complexity that can really only be found in the novel these days. In some ways, the reader is given the same all-encompassing experience as in a Dickens novel: humour and tragedy rub shoulders in a narrative that inexorably grips the reader. Whether or not Monica Ali can follow up this achievement is a question for the future; it's enough to say right now that Brick Lane is an essential read for anyone interested in current British fiction. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Ali has an impressive command of her story, but her real gift is in the richness of the lives she has created, populating Nazneen's London with a very entertaining cast of comic characters" (The Times)

"I was totally gripped by Brick Lane. A brilliant evocation of sensuality which might occur anywhere" (Daily Telegraph)

"Written with a wisdom and skill that few authors attain in a lifetime" (The Sunday Times)

"Comedy and poignancy abound... Brick Lane is a wonderful debut" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Brick Lane has everything: richly complex characters, a gripping story and it's funny too" (Observer)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By ghandibob VINE VOICE on 17 Sept. 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is a moment in Brick Lane when Nanzeen reads one of her sister's letters, sent to her in Britain from back in Bangladesh. Nanzeen, and by extension the reader of Brick Lane, is suddenly, and violently, taken to another world. Hasina, the beautiful younger sister who ran off to make a love match rather than allow herself to be part of an arranged marriage as Nanzeen did, recounts how her friend is in hospital because her husband pored acid over her face as a punishment. She will not live long. It is horrific and startling, and comes more as a shock because so much of Nanzeen's life is relatively sheltered. She is a Muslim woman who rarely leaves the house, much less the estate in Tower Hamlets on which she, her husband Chanu and her two daughters Shahana and Bibi live.
It would be a mistake to confuse the fact that Nanzeen is sheltered, however, with the idea that this novel is confined. It is a much more wide-ranging book that that. Politics, religion, love and, most important of all, intricate family dynamics are the driving forces behind this excellent debut from Ali. There is a lack of showiness that is admirable. She does not want to impress you with tricks and magic - the false truths of the conjurer. Instead, what Ali does is place, layer by layer, a subtle narrative worked around the figure of Nanzeen. The book, like the seam work Nanzeen eventually manages to find, allows the ordinary to invest life with something more than the sum of its parts.
This is not a perfect book by any means, though in most part it is very well told. The letters from Hasina that allow a window into the life Nanzeen may well have led had she stayed at home, and punctuate the story taking place near Brick Lane, can be distracting and perhaps do not quite work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lily Wren on 8 May 2009
Format: Paperback
The book centre's around Nazneen, an 18 year old Bangladeshi village girl thrust into council estate living in London after an arranged marriage to 40 year old Chanu. Ali follows Nazneens' development from confused, bewildered and displaced young woman into an even more confused and displaced wife and mother.

I found Brick Lane to be a book of 2 halves. The first half took me about 2 weeks to read, it was hard going, at times boring and I can understand why some people gave up on it early. Fortunately, the second half took me a few days to read and was far more interesting. It is a slow moving book and I imagine it is meant to be so. A kind of documentary of one womans' transformation from girl to woman whilst seeking to find a place in a Western world she is far removed from.

On the whole, I enjoyed Brick Lane. It passed a good few days for me and was worth the read, if not the hype. Having said this I found myself uninvolved and having very little empathy for characters I felt I should have. I found them often one-dimensional despite their lives full of woes and sadness. I found very little affection, warmth and love in the telling of the story. Maybe this was meant to be so.

We see only brief glimpses of warmth in her thoughts of home and in the letters her sister wrote (and yes, I agree with some criticisms that the broken English the letters were written in were distracting and, at times, hard going). Her husband and children seemed to merely tolerate her. Her lover, Karim, also seems to merely tolerate her and, like their `secret' meetings, the relationship is kept under wraps.

I found that Nazneen had very little to say throughout the book until she developed later on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By O E J TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought all the books that had been nominated for the 2003 MAN Booker Prize, Brick Lane being one of them so I had reasonably high expectations. I'm a little relieved, judging by the other reviews around mine here, to find out that I'm not the only one who couldn't wait to finish it (some gave up). It was interesting at first, but it seemed interminably long and by the time I was crying out for it to end, I was barely halfway through! Perhaps people from that part of London will find it more appealing, or those from Bangladesh. But this was one of those rare occasions when I thought I could use my time more usefully than read a book. How on earth did it get nominated ahead of (for example) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time? Beats me. All I can say is that it must be aimed at a niche market, those in that group will doubtless sing its praises but for the mass-market....I'm not so sure. Sometimes, the best people to write observations of specific cultures are those who live outside of those cultures rather than those who live within them. Maybe an 'outsider' can do it in a way that a wider audience will understand and appreciate.
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69 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Waterlow on 7 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Ever since its original publication and almost instantaneous shortlisting for various awards, Brick Lane has been on my "to get round to reading" list. From the rave reviews across the cover from all the papers, I thought it would be a sure-fire hit with me too. However, this wasn't the case.
Nazneen's story, at first glance, is highly intriguing - a Bangladeshi woman in an arranged marriage, shipped off to a husband she's never met in London. Initially this remains interesting, but that soon fades as the story unfolds painfully slowly, with little sense of direction. Like so many Booker nominees, Ali takes 5 pages to say something that could be conveyed in a single sentence. She seems incapable of writing directly, always using complicated symbols that the reader has to untangle, or otherwise be left with a text that always seems to be hinting at something just out of shot. Consequently the text often feels like nothing is happening at all, unless you try to read into every single word Ali writes: professional critics may love subtexts, but I certainly do not if it's the *only* interesting layer in the novel. Essentially, everything takes far too long to happen, and the novel feels suffocating as a result. Of course, this may be Ali's intention, to illustrate how Nazneen feels in her arranged life over which she has no control, but this doesn't make reading Brick Lane any easier.
Despite this, Ali has a gift for potraying strong characters who you feel could really exist. A great deal of empathy is felt for Nazneen, and her sister Hasina, whose tragic life in Bangladesh illustrates another path Nazneen might have taken if she had tried to buck the repressive system.
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