Received: Given to by friend
Release Date: June 21, 2004
A captivating read from a debut novelist, Brick Lane brings the immigrant milieu of East London to vibrant life. With great poignancy, Ali illuminates a foreign world; her well-developed characters pull readers along on a deeply psychological, almost spiritual journey. Through the eyes of two Bangladeshi sisters -- the plain Nazneen and the prettier Hasina -- we see the divergent paths of the contemporary descendants of an ancient culture. Hasina elopes to a "love marriage," and young Nazneen, in an arranged marriage, is pledged to a much older man living in London.
Ali's skillful narrative focuses on Nazneen's stifling life with her ineffectual husband, who keeps her imprisoned in a city housing project filled with immigrants in varying degrees of assimilation. But Ali reveals a bittersweet tension between the "two kinds of love" Nazneen and her sister experience -- that which begins full and overflowing, only to slowly dissipate, and another which emerges like a surprise, growing unexpectedly over years of faithful commitment. Both of these loves have their own pitfalls: Hasina's passionate romance crumbles into domestic violence, and Nazneen's marriage never quite reaches a state of wedded bliss.
Though comparisons have drawn between Ali and Zadie Smith, a better comparison might be made between this talented newcomer and the work of Amy Tan, who so deftly portrays the immigrant experience with empathy and joy.
This book sounded really interesting to me, I had heard a lot about it and it got some great reviews (I even had it on my TBR list for a few years). Sadly, I was disappointed by this book and couldn't even finish it. It's rare that I don't finish a book! I just couldn't find myself getting into this story.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that it was too descriptive, to the point that the descriptions were taking over what was happening in the story. I found that I didn't understand what the main character was going through because she was too busy describing every little thing that she encounters (for example what her friends house looks like, which is described every time she goes there). When I'm reading I like to become engrossed in the story and reading description after description takes away from the main point of the story.
Another slight issue I had was how the story was told through Hasina's eyes, it was all in letter to Nazneen and I found it difficult to understand some of the things that were happening because of the writing style (I understand that this was Monica's way of showing readers that Hasina was not taught proper grammar, but at times it was too difficult). I also felt that at the times readers were learning about Hasina's life, many things were happening in Nazneen's life that we miss out on. Monica seems to jump ahead of time (at one point a significant amount of time is passed... I think it was 10 years or so), and I feel like major events happened in that space.
I do think this could have been an interesting story, the idea is different and does catch attention. But in my opinion I would not recommend this book, it was just too difficult to get through.