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3.4 out of 5 stars
205
3.4 out of 5 stars
Brick Lane
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on 16 August 2017
We had seen the movie some time ago, and had liked the story. We thought of buying the book, so far enjoying it, however, weren't happy with the supplier- cookiesales666, they sold it on amazon as new, but when received it, the book was smelly, old and tatty! But, the stars have not reflected this element. Overall, a great read. Recommended.
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on 11 August 2017
Different to other books and interesting - different writing style, but I enjoyed this book and the emotional elements.
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on 2 May 2017
4 out of five for a good read
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on 27 May 2017
I received the book and it was written fully in italian, this was not specified anywhere on the website.
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on 17 September 2017
What a fantastic read. Riveting. I devoured it in a week. Cannot wait to read everything written by this author.
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on 11 February 2015
A good read , very thought provoking ,
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2004
"Brick Lane" is an important and intelligent addition to immigrant British literature that deserves, and will amply reward, a thoughtful read. But it is a novel, not a text book about Bangladeshis in London, or about Bangladesh itself.
Unsubtly trailing the central concept of Fate over every chapter, it explores how the lead character, Nazneen, fights the Fate that is written for her, or at least appears to. From her refusal to accept her own birth as a still born to her passing comment in the closing pages of the book "But that was before I knew what I could do"; a comment which finally refutes her own mother's enduring words of suffering "we are women, what can we do".
For non-Muslim readers, it is important to note that Fate is a central part of Islam. Muslims believe that life is predetermined and individual choice (but not individual responsibility) is limited. This leads to complex theological and logical issues, which Brick Lane fudges. It is never clear whether Nazneen has followed her Fate, or changed it, although the book strongly suggests the latter. Ali takes this concept to its extreme in the sketch of the drug addict, Tariq. Addiction is not his Fate. His doctor says he will get better "if that's what he decides".
Ali contrasts Nazneen's "victories" over her Fate, against the series of disappointments of her husband, the heart-rendingly tragi-comic Chanu. Chanu is educated, full of potential. But Chanu's inaction leaves his promise unfulfilled. This is again contrasted with Nazneen's sister, Hasina. Left in Bangladesh, she sends letters about her two failed and violent marriages and her spell of prostitution; misfortunes suffered inspite of her best efforts to make life better for herself.
And then there's Karim. Nazneen's British born Bangladeshi lover, sometimes criticized as being "one-dimensional". But, their relationship is supposed to be one-dimensional. Nazneen herself comments that she "made him up". The relationship is a metaphor for the immigrant experience; from the point of view of the newly arrived "village girl" adjusting to the new country and from the point of view of the confused British born Bangladeshi. Through Nazneen, Karim "loves" the country he has never known. But through her pathetic father, Nazneen's own British born daughter, Shahana, "hates" it. Ali intelligently and subtly explores all these ideas in this broad work, which also has good background sketches of most of the issues that affect immigrant communities.
And for the benefit any non-immigrants reading this review, who have ever wondered what its like for us, I would point you to the most profound comment I have ever read about growing up in a second generation immigrant community; "Karim was born a foreigner. He did not have a place in this world. That was why he defended it."
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on 20 February 2015
This is about fem empowerment and should be hot from the Virago stable. Feels very dated now. But Ali's biggest problem is the complete lack of humour , lack of narrative tension and clumsy characterisation which underlines her shortcomings as an author. It's really actually a bit of a bore.
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on 4 May 2017
A really eye-opener of a book, I first read this many years ago and have recently re-read it.

Told through the eyes of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London for an arranged marriage, the main story is about her experiences in London from her arrival aged 18 and spanning the next 20-ish years. Alongside Nazneen's story are the people around her. We have her sister Hasini, still living in Bangladesh and going through her own difficulties; her husband Chanu, struggling with his place in the world; her children, born in England and being pulled between cultures; and her friends and neighbours. The story develops with Nazneen meeting a younger man, Karim, who has strong views about the world in which they live.

I really enjoyed reading it, both times! The writing pulled me in, and I found I could live and feel the characters’ worlds. It’s fairly long, and it's the type of book where you need to invest a bit of time into it, but well worth it. It has moments of humour, sadness, tension, it has real life dilemmas and choices, and a great feeling of being pulled into the culture. Highly recommended.
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on 8 May 2009
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. I noticed that in the first half her dialogue could be penned in one page and everyone around her spoke AT her, rather than with her. She appeared to me as a soundboard for everyone else's thoughts. She kept all things to herself, secrets, lies and worries. This was even more noticeable in the letters Hasina wrote to her and the ones she wrote back, or tried to write. Hasina often wrote long and interesting letters to her sister and showed a great deal of insight into what was happening around her and a self awareness whereas Nazneens' letters would barely scratch a paragraph.

As the book moved forward Nazneen become more vocal and I feel was an intentional part of Ali's writing to show the development of her character. That said, I felt that other characters had more to offer and drew me in more. Nazneens' eldest daughter Shahana, her friend Razia and Dr Azad's wife who made all but a brief appearance, all seemed more real to me. Karim seemed almost dreamlike, lacking substance and their relationship just didn't gel for me.

One thing I feel that is created rather well in Brick Lane, is the environment within which Nazneen lived. The description of her home, the council estate, plaster coming off the walls, the groups congregating around dog crap strewn streets, the desperation and lack of hope amongst some, all conjured images that were described so well by Ali. She contrasts these with glimpses of the poverty that Hasina was living amongst in Bangladesh. Yet somehow there seemed more hope there (or was she delluding herself?)and Hasina, no matter what she had gone through, always seemed a little more hopeful and happier than her sister, possibly illustrating how poverty is relative and often spiritual poverty can, in a way, be more damning than monetary poverty. It was this and the sidelined characters that seemed more tangible and interesting to me.

But perhaps that is as it is. Nazneen feeling unhappy, unloved, used, disenfranchised, displaced and, to a degree, invisible. Ali certainly does leave me with this impression of the central character in this book and this I believe is one thing to be recognised and applauded.
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