The story of an arranged marriage which sees a young woman, Nazneen, living in a remote village of Goriphur in Bangladesh taking from her home town and sent to marry a 40 year old Bangladeshi man, Chanu, living in London. It alternates between the present, the flashbacks of Nazneen’s childhood and letters between her and her sister, Hasina.
Brick lane has won countless awards and nominated for even more and I can 100% see that these were very much deserved. Ali has a beautiful, intricate writing style that makes you feel like you are in the story absorbing the array of mixed herbs and spices, fondling the silk fabrics and slouching in the faux leather sofa observing the family’s financial and social difficulties. The book allows the reader into a world I would never ordinarily have been privy too, that of a Muslim immigrant. Ali draws so many social stereotypes and walks a thin line between racism and reality. So much of it I doubted was true, like Chanu believing that white people were “ignorant types” and how he is here just to take our money and leave….and yet there it is, written in a book that is not deliberately trying to be controversial.
The book spans decades and covers a lot politically, it includes world events and far eastern troubles and it is undeniably accomplished with style, knowledge and pride. But I cannot help but award Brick Lane with only 4 stars. This is because Ali’s strength is also her downfall, too much content. I felt as though I had watched a whole years worth of soap operas and had all sorts of dramas thrown at me. Then again, perhaps that is the point, that life is not easy and that this amount of hardship and trauma is real for so many people.
My favourite part of the book was the end “this is England, we can do what we want”. Which is true, we are lucky to have freedom and rights and that is no more prevalent than after having read this book.