Thursday, July 2, 2009

Brick Lane


I had promised myself that if I managed to read any book that was over 500 pages, I would write about it. The lazy reader that I am, I can barely ever finish a book that fat.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali was 491 pages, close to my 500-page criterion. Not only did I finish it, I wanted more.

Trimming your husband’s nasal hair, or scraping the corn on his feet, may not be your idea of marital bliss. But for many women, it is! At least when they are not beaten, bathed in acid, or abused in return. For Nazneen, it was the only life she had known…the only life she tried to be grateful for.

The story in a sentence is:
Nazneen, a simple girl from a village in Bangladesh, settles down in the UK with her husband Chanu.
I am going to take up parts of that sentence to give you a perspective.

‘Simple girl from a village’ – Nazneen grew up with her mother’s teachings, one of which was ‘never to question fate because if God wanted them to ask questions, He would have made them men’. Her childhood in her village serves as a repository of stories…stories that she tells herself when she is alone…stories that she tells her two daughters when they want to peep into her world.

Bangladesh – The spirit of Bangladesh breathes through Nazneen’s small UK apartment…and her life. She gets a taste of her motherland, in the letters from her sister Hasina…in the gossips of her neighbours…in her sewing machine…in the food she cooks…in the Dhakai saree she wears…in the Brick Lane where many more Bangladeshi immigrants have build their new homes.

‘Settles down in the UK’ – UK, or UK as seen by Muslim immigrants, is where most part of the story unfolds. The cultural confusion faced by the second generation kids, the effect of 9/11 on the world and on the Muslim community of the world, the drug abuse and ‘gang’ formation in the dingy dark alleys, the hard work that mostly pays but often doesn’t…and yet the promise of a better life. In short, it was her life in UK that introduced Nazneen to that part of herself that she would have never known.

‘with her husband Chanu’ – In spite of the nasal hair, corned feet, yellowish nails, a humongous belly, a tongue that never stops talking and a mind that never stops weaving impossible dreams, you cannot help but like Chanu (played by Satish Kaushik in the movie…so now you can visualize him). In his eternal battle against the ‘ignorant types’ and the ‘peasant types’, Chanu wishes to carve an identity for himself. An identity that he thinks would make him more acceptable in the society that he is so desperate to be a part of. When all his ‘battles’ fail, he rejects the society that wasn’t generous enough to accommodate his dreams…and plans a flight back home.

The Brick Lane is about the life that they end up living in between their efforts to settle down…and their efforts to go back to their homeland.

8 comments:

The Ketchup Girl said...

hmmmm who doesn't want to go back...:) I am constantly looking for reviews on books. makes it so much easier. And i remember seeign this book at the store amongst the new releases, should pick it up soon. Did u say movie? has it realeased??

Scribbler :) said...

@ KG - yes, i think it released in 2008. Worth a read...and OK to watch.

jhimli said...

I wonder if simplicity and happiness will ever go hand in hand...
But I must pick this one up...
Write a lot more reviews...they make for great reading

Debanjana said...

I was hoping you'd also write about the girl's ideas of bliss more...the kind we were talking about the other day...but anyway...this is definitely a good post...want more reviews from you

Paws Awhile said...

Reminds me of the song, "Ebhaabeo phire asha jaai..." by Chandrabindu.

This book was released in the first half of 2008, and I loved it when I read it.

Nonz... you're great at book reviews too!

spiderman! said...

porbo bolchish ? tar aage bol tor Namesake kemon legechilo....sheta r basis e ami tor opinion ta ke value korbo.. ;) :)

Scribbler :) said...

@Spiderman - I liked The Namesake...but the Brick Lane is nothing like that.

late, but here said...

watched the movie after reading your blog. must say i had enjoyed the book much much more when i had read it a few years ago. read this book: toss of a lemon, padma vishwanathan. i am loving it. no NRI funda here, but amazing. such simple times, such simple stories.