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Saturday, December 16, 2006

This book presents an enjoyable mingling of Bangladesh and London, past and present, freedom and obligation, stoicism and emotion. Nazneen, a woman from a village in Bangladesh, is married to a Bangladeshi man who lives in London. At birth, the midwife believes Nazneen to be dead, but then she begins to breathe .. and Nazneen's mother decides to leave her to Fate. Nazneen lives, but this idea of accepting Fate plays a large role in her life. The attitudes in London are entirely different from what she knows, although she lives in a Bangladeshi community in an estate (big apartment buildings). How to marry all these things which seem to not fit together .. what does it look like to raise children and learn to live with and love a husband, to resign oneself to Fate, to ask questions that might be too dangerous to answer?

Nazneen has one sister, Hasina, who is beautiful. Too beautiful. She eloped at a young age and since then the only contact these sisters have is letters. Ali uses these letters to full extent, including them periodically throughout the story. They give updates about Hasina's life, about how Bangladesh is changing, share stories from their childhood, shed insight into their worldview. Hasina's letters do this, while Nazneen's letters are short and just give brief details about her life. Hasina does not agree with Nazneen or her mother's desire to just give in to Fate -- she fights and hopes for things to change and asks questions. Sometimes the letters were too much, and rather annoying -- but generally gave a good taste of some contrasts between Nazneen's present and past life.

Nazneen continually refers to Fate, and wonders what she really feels about it. Her mother left her to Fate and she lived. Her mother taught her to accept whatever fate brings. Nazneen seeks to lose her feelings, so that she is not angry or happy at what Fate brings her. But this becomes too much of a challenge. Some things really must be delighted in. Others must be mourned and fought and questioned. Nazneen comes to see this, and realize that she can play an active role in her own future -- not just a passive one. This is a piece of hope. Hope is not just that I can do something worthwhile - but also that there are worthwhile things to be done. Ideas worth believing in and acting on. Hope is that God is active, present, and will return to make all things as they were created to be -- under and in Him. But as humans we are not simply spectators, but participators and watchers and those who are involved. Nazneen comes to realize this and chooses to accept the responsibility it brings .. and that is a change worth reading about.

Title:Brick Lane
Author: Monica Ali
Date published:2003
Genre: Fiction, Cultural
Number of pages: 492


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