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Brick Lane

Brick Lane

A Novel

  • reading group guide
"A book you won’t be able to put down. A Bangladeshi immigrant in London is torn between the kind, tedious older husband with whom she has an arranged marriage (and children) and the fiery political activist she lusts after. A novel that’s multi-continental, richly detailed and elegantly crafted." –Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Sisterland


After an arranged marriage to Chanu, a man twenty years older, Nazneen is taken to London, leaving her home and heart in the Bangladeshi village where she was born. Her new world is full of mysteries. How can she cross the road without being hit by a car (an operation akin to dodging raindrops in the monsoon)? What is the secret of her bullying neighbor Mrs. Islam? What is a Hell's Angel? And how must she comfort the naïve and disillusioned Chanu? ?

As a good Muslim girl, Nazneen struggles to not question why things happen. She submits, as she must, to Fate and devotes herself to her husband and daughters. Yet to her amazement, she begins an affair with a handsome young radical, and her erotic awakening throws her old certainties into chaos.

Monica Ali's splendid novel is about journeys both external and internal, where the marvellous and the terrifying spiral together.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 432 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743243315 | 
  • June 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Mymensingh District, East Pakistan, 1967

An hour and forty-five minutes before Nazneen's life began -- began as it would proceed for quite some time, that is to say uncertainly -- her mother, Rupban, felt an iron fist squeeze her belly. Rupban squatted on a low three-legged stool outside the kitchen hut. She was plucking a chicken because Hamid's cousins had arrived from Jessore and there would be a feast. "Cheepy-cheepy, you are old and stringy," she said, calling the bird by name as she always did, "but I would like to eat you, indigestion or no indigestion. And tomorrow I will have only boiled rice, no... see more

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Brick Lane
  1. In the beginning of Monica Ali's novel, Brick Lane, we follow the protagonist Nazneen from her rural Bangladeshi village to London where she has gone from teenager to married woman. How does Nazneen cope with the transition? In what small ways does she rebel against her fate?
  2. In his glowing review of Brick Lane in The New Republic James Woods says that Brick Lane "inhabits a fictional realm in which prayer, free will, and adultery all have their 19th century weight." Another reviewer compares her writing to Thomas Hardy's. How would you compare Nazneen's experience to that of Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary or Tess in Tess of the D'Urbervilles or any other 19th century heroine who strays?
  3. Chapter 2 presents Dr. Azad, the enigmatic doctor who becomes Chanu's unlikely friend. Nazneen is often bewildered by their friendship; what is the tie that binds this odd couple?
  4. When Nazneen sees the ice skaters on television, she is immediately captivated. This image is recalled several times throughout the novel, at the end of the book Nazneen is at an ice-skating rink, about to skim the ice for the first time. What does the ice skating symbolize?
  5. Nazneen's friend, Razia, thinks marrying for love is romantic but when it comes to her own daughter she says, "Shefali will make a love marriage over my dead body." Why do you think arranged marri
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About the Author

Monica Ali
Photo Credit: Liz Emerson

Monica Ali

Monica Ali has been named by Granta as one of the twenty best young British novelists. She is the author of In the Kitchen, Alentejo Blue, and Brick Lane, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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