More Brick Lane Attention

In the latest issue of The Boston Review is yet another article about Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. The reviewer faults Ali for not bringing into her fiction the events of April 1999, when bombs aimed at the people who live on Brick Lane were detonated by a member of the British National Party. Although I’m not entirely comfortable with passing judgment on what someone didn’t do, I do agree that Ali shied away from exploring the world outside Nazneen’s apartment. There are a few scenes in which Nazneen reflects on the outside world, but, by and large, we are indeed restricted to her thoughts about Chanu, about Hasina, about her daughters, about her lover. The reviewer then goes on to compare Ali’s novel to (what else?) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and uncovers many “similarities”, like the fact that characters in both novels had arranged marriages to older men. Ha! Isn’t arranged marriage a fact of life for many Bangladeshi women? Why would two novels that have such characters not feature this type of union? The rest of the parallels that the reviewer draws fall largely within the immigrant experience in England, and so the argument struck me as unconvincing and unfair. But the reviewer does make the point that, had Ali’s book explored certain less palatable aspects of the immigrant experience, her book might not have been the huge success that it was. And he or she is probably right.

(Link seen at The Antic Muse)