Brick Lane

Monday, January 19, 2015

Brick Lane 
by Monica Ali

Nazneen is a young woman living with her family in Bangladesh and dreaming of her future. Soon she’s shipped to England where she’s married off to an older man. Her life becomes so small, confined almost entirely to their apartment. Her husband is gross and selfish and treats her like an employee. I understand it’s an arranged marriage, but it’s an awful situation. There’s no physical abuse, just a continual wearing down of her spirit. Her casual acceptance of her situation is heartbreaking and it was hard for me to identify with her.  

When she finally has an affair you honestly don’t even care about the man she is sleeping with, it’s more about the fact that she’s finally done one tiny thing for herself. Even then it seems to make her more miserable than before. She also has two daughters who grow up in England and have a hard time embracing their parents’ culture. They are children of England, not Bangladesh and that divide makes it difficult for them to understand their mother’s decision to stay in a loveless marriage. 

Part of the book consists of letters back and forth between Nazneen and her sister. Hasina ran away from home and married for love, but her life was not a happy one. I think the main purpose of that plot was to show Nazneen that things could always be worse, but at least Hasina chose her own life. 

I felt like we are waiting for something to happen for the entire book and then nothing does. It’s this uphill slog that you think will end with an incredible view, but when you reach the top there’s nothing to see. She never goes to see her sister, she never gets caught in the affair, etc. She just decides to stay at home when her husband leaves. That was good in its own way, but there was no real resolution. 

The fact that I couldn’t identify with the main character wasn’t a deal breaker for me in anyway. I love learning about different cultures. I love seeing the struggle that comes from immigrating to a new country and trying to understand their customs. The problem was that Nazneen didn’t seem interested in anything. I felt like I couldn’t root for her when she couldn’t even root for herself. 

BOTTOM LINE: Geez I struggled with this one. It’s such a slow moving novel. I felt like I was living through those years of stifling boredom with Nazneen, and not in the good way. There is some beautiful writing, but for me it wasn’t enough to balance out the slog through the story.


Anonymous said...

You summed it up perfectly in your spoiler. I read it years ago and that feeling is all i remember about the book.

Lisa said...

Monica Ali has been on my list of authors to try, but I think I will start with a different book.

JoAnn said...

This was a "meh" book for me, too.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

52booksorbust - It was just such a struggle!

Lisa - I wouldn't be opposed to trying something else from her if I heard good things about it.

JoAnn - Glad I wasn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

I have this one on my list but now I'm thinking I might hate it. I can't love a book because of beautiful writing alone - I have to have SOME kind of investment in the characters!

Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader said...

I was not a fan of this one either, and couldn't even bring myself to finish it. I had absolutely no interest in how it would end, which is a shame, because it is a book I very much wanted to enjoy.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

bummer!! I haven't heard of this one--mind if I ask why you picked it up or how you heard about it?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Heather - I know, me too. This one just did not do it for me.

Melissa - I wanted to love it too. I was hoping it would be a bit more like Lahiri's work.

Trish - Actually I got it from a book list created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of Gilmore Girls). She listed her 60 favorite classic novels and 60 favorite newer releases in it. I've been slowly reading books off of it for years and have found so many that I love! I should post about it some time.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Yes!!! I just finished bingeing on Gilmore Girls for the first time. Scott suggested I read all the Rory books. LOL!

Heather said...

That cover is too creepy. That, and your review, will make me stay away!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - I love that idea! Gilmore Girls is so good.

Heather - Seriously, so creepy and doesn't really reflect the tone of the book.

nomadreader said...

I had the opposite reaction--I felt like so much happened and time moved so quickly in this one! I was fascinated by Nazneen, too, but if you weren't, I can see how it would slog. Sorry it didn't work for you!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

nomadreader - That's the beauty of books! We all have such different tastes. I'm so glad you enjoyed it even if it wasn't for me.