Discussing Brick Lane

As Brian has said, we had a lively discussion on Friday; always the sign of a good book. I wanted to leave the discussion with some quotes from the book, which really highlight the contradictions and dilemmas facing the characters as they meditate on fate and free will.

Oh, one last thing; for all of the negative coverage that Bangladesh may get, an LSE survey in 2009 put the country first in its Gross National Happiness Index!

(Next up on February 17th, Koari will be taking us on the Geoff Ryman’s journey, 253 – the book can be accessed free at http://www.ryman-novel.com/)

Quotes from Brick Lane

Chanu to Nazneen (P45): “Why should you go out? ‘If you go out, ten people will say, “I saw her walking on the street.” And I will look a fool. Personally, I don’t mind if you go out but these people are so ignorant. What can you do?

(P65): “A man cannot live without water…but he can bear the thought of no water. A man can live without sex…but he cannot bear the thought of no sex.”

Razia to Nazneenm (P71) “She’s asking for a divorce. I heard it from Nazma, who heard it from Sorupa. Hanufa told her about it, and she got it straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Nazia reflecting on home (P96): “In Gouripur a sweetmaker was a sweetmaker, a shoemaker was a shoemaker, and a carpenter was a carpenter. They did not want to be teachers or librarians. They were not waiting for promotions. They did not make themselves unhappy.”

Razia’s view of women immigrants’ experience (P114). “Listen, when I’m in Bangladesh I put on a sari and cover my head and all that. But here I go out to work. I work with white girls and I’m just one of them…Some women spend ten, twenty years here and they sit in their kitchen grinding spices all day and learn only two words of English.”

Chanu on white working class (P254). “Because our own culture is so strong. And what is their culture? Television, pub, throwing darts, kicking a ball. That is the white working class culture.”

Nazneen’s reaction to Karim’s reading, Hadith of the Day on adultery (P347) “After the first few lines Nazneen heard only the blood in her ears. She watched Karim as a mouse watches a cat; when he turned she would be ready…”It is time for you to go,” she said.

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One Response to Discussing Brick Lane

  1. It’s a real shame I had to miss the book-club meeting. The fate of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane has intrigued me for some time. I agree with Pete, I don’t think this is a radical book. The only reason why a controversy arose from its publication – a controversy that involved a minority of people (albeit, with some exceptionally iconic names attached to it) – is down to its title. Since ‘Brick Lane’s refers to a real, rather than fictional place, it has involuntarily prompted questions about authenticity, with regard to an author’s claim to the representation of a particularly place she may not in fact belong to.

    Should we only write about our own neighbourhoods then? Whose point of view is more authentic?

    I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are other than in a country where there is freedom of speech anybody should have the right to write about any place!

    With relation to its portrayal of Islam, I don’t think Ali’s book portrays just one type of (radicalised) Muslim immigrant. In fact, the book suggests that there are multiple ways of experiencing Islam, both in Bangladesh and London.

    Perhaps on the book’s weaknesses – as far as I can tell – is that it seems to me to push the utopian subtext in relation to the immigrant’s experience in multicultural London a little too overtly.
    When going ice-skating, at the end of the book, Nazneen wonders whether wearing a sari would be appropriate (and safe?); to this end comes Razia’s defiant reply: ‘This is England, […] You can do whatever you like!’ (492). Is the implication, then, that the immigrant’s dream is more likely to come true in London/England than anywhere else in the world?

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