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Brick Lane [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Monica Ali , Ayesha Dharker
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 May 2004

Reissue with PB edition.

This exciting and deeply moving debut novel follows the tumultuous life of Nazneen from her birth in a Bangladeshi village hut, to her arranged marriage to Chanu and the subsequent move to London’s Tower Hamlets.

Nazneen’s inauspicious entry to the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a Bangladeshi village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu. Her life in London’s Tower Hamlets is, on the surface, calm. For years, keeping house and rearing children, she does what is expected of her. Yet Nazneen walks a tightrope stretched between her daughters’ embarrassment and her husband’s resentments. Chanu calls his elder daughter the little memsahib. ‘I didn’t ask to be born here,’ say Shahana, with regular finality.

Into that fragile peace walks Karim. He sets questions before her, of longing and belonging; he sparks in her a turmoil that reflects the community’s own; he opens her eyes and directs her gaze – but what she sees, in the end, comes as a suprise to them both.

While Nazneen journeys along her path of self-realization, a way haunted by her mother’s ghost, her sister Hasina, back in Bangladesh, 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 ultimately not bound – by their landscapes and memories, both sisters struggle to dream themselves out of the rules prescribed for them.

Beautifully rendered and, by turns, both comic and deeply moving, Brick Lane establishes Monica Ali as one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Abridged edition (Reissue) edition (17 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007171218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007171217
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 10.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,545,267 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.


• '… Surely, Brick Lane can't be that good. Actually, it's better.' Observer

• 'In years to come, Brick Lane may be one of the Nation's Favourite Books.' Spectator

• 'Written with the wisdom and skill few authors attain in a lifetime.' Sunday Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A calm and poised book of subtlety and promise 17 Sep 2003
By ghandibob VINE VOICE
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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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work 7 July 2004
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 3 Aug 2004
By R. P. Sedgwick VINE VOICE
I was disappointed with this book. Brick Lane had the potential to be a good story, but it is overlong. There are far too many scenes and characters in the book than the plot justifies. In particular the letters from Hasina are almost unreadable and add very little to the book after the first few. It's a pity a lot of the chaff wasn't stripped out before Brick Lane was published, and it might have been a much better read.
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86 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good novel 10 Jun 2003
Over the past couple of months, there has been quite a bit of publicity surrounding Monica Ali, and how Granta named her as one of the UK's Top 20 young authors, even though at that time she had had nothing published.
Well, Granta were right, and Brick Lane more than lives up to the advance hype accorded to Ms. Ali. The Amazon review above gives some idea of the story, so I'll not repeat that. What it doesn't mention is that throughout the story of Nazneen's life in Tower Hamlets, there are letters from her sister Hasina, back in Bangladesh. These letters vividly portray (in broken English) daily life in Bangladesh, and the dangers of making a "love" marriage, reflected in the life of one of the characters in London.
Although the story of Nazneen's marriage to Chanu is a strong story, the real strengths of this novel are the characterisation and perceptive views of life in general. Particularly well-realised is Mrs. Islam, who turns into a very frightening old lady. Soon after Mrs. Islam's final personal appearance in the book, there is an unrelated moment of such pain, that it was almost unbearable to read. Writing such as that cannot be argued with.
The Amazon reviewer casts a little doubt on whether Monica Ali can follow this up, but that really does not matter. (A continuation would actually be very welcome.) This is a very, very good novel that gives voice to a London community rarely heard from, and also its international counterpart. If you have bothered to read this far, then don't hesitate any longer, buy this book today.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Service excellent, just bought the book as it was a first printing - though she is a good author.
Published 1 day ago by D.Enamu
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious tripe!!!!
This is so typical of "Award winning books" - it is as boring as hell! Tedious, uninspiring and eminently predictable. Read more
Published 5 days ago by comm88
5.0 out of 5 stars Brick Lane
A clean book in good condition and as described which arrived in good time. Sorry nothing more to add. Read more
Published 2 months ago by grannyannie
5.0 out of 5 stars BRICK LANE
Published 2 months ago by jimbo
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and intense
I found this book really interesting and thought-provoking. There's not much action but it provides a nuanced and intense description of being thrown into the midst of an... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Cece de la Vela
2.0 out of 5 stars unconvincing
some good writing, but poor structure, meandering material and opaque & flimsy characters make for a very tedious read. only the husband is sympathetic.
Published 2 months ago by Zangiku
4.0 out of 5 stars Chanu: one of the great literary characters
Don't be put off by the one star reviews. The 500 pages require patience - skim reading Hasina's letters helps - but serve to tell the epic journey of the central characters over... Read more
Published 2 months ago by goldgreen
5.0 out of 5 stars Immigration and consequences
Nazneen is born in a small village in Bangladesh in 1967 when the country was still called East Pakistan in 1967. Read more
Published 4 months ago by The Pegster
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into a minority culture
This has become a classic and i can see why. The fortunes of Nazneen, newly arrived in Tower hamlets from Bangladesh, and her sister who has stayed in Bangladesh and has... Read more
Published 8 months ago by yossi ben shnaor
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT sure what the hype is about.
This was a book club choice and, out of respect for who chose it, I read it to the end. It was so drawn out in places I really wanted to just put it down. Read more
Published 8 months ago by F2
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