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Brick lane : a novel
Monica Ali
Adult Fiction ALI

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The immigrant world Ali chronicles in this penetrating, unsentimental debut has much in common with Zadie Smith's scrappy, multicultural London, though its sheltered protagonist rarely leaves her rundown East End apartment block where she is surrounded by fellow Bangladeshis. After a brief opening section set in East Pakistan-Nazneen's younger sister, the beautiful Hasina, elopes in a love marriage, and the quiet, plain Nazneen is married off to an older man-Ali begins a meticulous exploration of Nazneen's life in London, where her husband has taken her to live. Chanu fancies himself a frustrated intellectual and continually expounds upon the "tragedy of immigration" to his young wife (and anyone else who will listen), while letters from downtrodden Hasina provide a contrast to his idealized memories of Bangladesh. Nazneen, for her part, leads a relatively circumscribed life as a housewife and mother, and her experience of London in the 1980s and '90s is mostly indirect, through her children (rebellious Shahana and meek Bibi) and her variously assimilated neighbors. The realistic complexity of the characters is quietly stunning: Nazneen shrugs off her passivity at just the right moment, and the supporting cast-Chanu, the ineffectual patriarch; Nazneen's defiant and struggling neighbor, Razia (proud wearer of a Union Jack sweatshirt); and Karim, the foolish young Muslim radical with whom Nazneen eventually has an affair-are all richly drawn. By keeping the focus on their perceptions, Ali comments on larger issues of identity and assimilation without drawing undue attention to the fact, even gracefully working in September 11. Carefully observed and assured, the novel is free of pyrotechnics, its power residing in Ali's unsparing scrutiny of its hapless, hopeful protagonists. (Sept.) Forecast: Ali, who was the only unpublished writer on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists 2003 list, should attract considerable attention as she embarks on a five-city author tour in the U.S. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Most coming-of-age novels focus on an adolescent learning about life and love for the first time. Ali's debut shows that a 34-year-old mother of two can discover the joys and pains of growing up as well as any youngster. From the moment of her birth in Bangladesh, Nazneen has let fate determine her life-fate presented her with an arranged marriage to a ne'er-do-well, two battling daughters, and a run-down apartment in a London public housing project. Slowly, she wakes up to the world beyond her flat, first acquiring a job, then a lover, and finally her own voice. The reader, too, wakes up to a world where women are still at the mercy of men through culture, economics, religion, and complicity. Ali has the distinction of being selected as one of Britain's best young novelists by Granta magazine before her novel was even published; the judges chose well. Hers is a refreshing glimpse into the everyday lives of families seeking balance between tradition and the demands of the wider world. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Nazneen
Age: 18
Chanu's wife through an arranged marriage.

Age: Middle aged
Nazneen's husband.

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