I have to say I really enjoyed Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I tried it some years ago and I couldn’t get into it. I’ve also posted about it in an online Facebook book club that I use and I was suprised by the amount of people who said they were also unable to get into the book. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book so it was surprising to hear so many negative comments.
So what can I tell you about the book? It was very well written. I get a real sense of who Nazneen was, she had depth of character and you get to know her thoughout the book. As a reader you heard about her struggles, her rebelliousness and her marriage. You see Chanu through her eyes.
At the start of the book we see his faults but we also come to see what a good man he is. The marriage was arranged so Nazneen doesn’t love him at first. It seems that his foibles irritate her and he certainly does make some bad decisions. I did get the feeling that although he does make bad decisions, he makes them for the right reasons – a desire to better himself or do right by his family. The thing is though, he simply isn’t that capable. You see throughout the book how he grows steadily disheartened and at one point it seemed to me that he was depressed.
I’m not sure if Nazneen came to love Chanu but at the very least she came to regard him with some affection. This much is clear at the end when Nazneen decides to stay in England while Chanu returns to Bangladesh. I sincerely doubt that life will turn out any differently for Chanu in Bangladesh and this is alluded to in the letters that he sends to Nazneen.
I wasn’t convinced about Karim. I didn’t feel the chemistry between him and Nazneen and I certainly don’t think that he loved her. I think he would have been a far worse husband than Chanu. I felt his character lacked depth as did their affair. I’m not really sure how it happened. Would this really be something that she fell into.
All in all the story is beautifully told and shows England from a different perspective. I’m glad I made the effort to read this book. I wasn’t sure how it would end but I’m happy with the way it did. It wasn’t a woosh/bang/shock ending but I felt it ended the way it was supposed to. It was a gentle ending, one that left me able to imagine Nazneen living in Tower Hamlets today, making a living, working for Razia. I liked it a lot and I left it with a lot of affection for Nazreem, warts and all.