Saturday, 21 June 2008


I recently finished reading “Brick Lane”, which was short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. It is written by Monica Ali, a British writer of Bangladeshi origin.

Brick Lane is named after BRICK LANE, the street at the heart of London's Bangladeshi community. The novel caused controversy within the Bangladeshi community in Britain because of what they saw as the negative portrayal of people from the Sylhet region, saying that the novel made them appear uneducated and unsophisticated. Parts of the community were opposed to plans by the filmmakers to film in the Brick Lane area. (Source: WIKIPEDIA)

Brick Lane tells the story of Nazneen, who came to England from Bangladesh at young age of 17-18 for an arranged marriage to Chanu, who is over twice her age, has big plans that never eventuates and is basically a pompous and intellectual snob. He blames racism for all his misfortunes, never himself. When Nazneen arrives, she does not speak any English and her attempts to educate herself is brushed away as her husband does not see the significance of an education in her role as a house maker. Her life is one of patient submission to her fate, though she longs for her home and her sister.

Meanwhile, it also tells the story of Hasina (Nazneen’s sister) who elopes with her lover and the tragedy surrounding her life. It tells the story of other Bangladeshi migrants, and the quandary faced by first, second generation Bangladeshis and also of Nazneen’s own children.

Nazneen’s fate changes when she meets Karim. Karim is everything that Chanu is not and the two begin an affair. The affair forces Nazneen to begin the process of self discovery. In the aftermath of 9/11, and against a background of increasing racial tension, she finally makes a choice, much to the surprise of Karim, Chanu and herself!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it. I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment on it but it got good reviews from Margaret Pomeranz (3 ½ stars) and David Stratton (3 ½ stars) (for non Aussie readers of this blog, they are one of Australia’s top movie reviewers). You can see their review HERE.

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