Saturday, July 29, 2006

The immigrant man

Brick Lane
by Monica Ali

I meant to be reading The Accidental by Ali Smith, but I went in search of "Ali" instead of "Smith" at the library and found Brick Lane, which I'd vaguely remembered hearing good things about. So next trip, it's to the S's.

It reminds me of White Teeth, though Ali was born in Bangladesh and her focus -- her whole world, really, is the Bangladeshi immigrants. What they have in common is London and the ridiculous (but mostly lovable) major male characters. Though in Ali's book, the ridiculous men are sad and not comedic like Zadie Smith's are. They also both have characters with the last name Iqbal, though Smith's Iqbals are much more prominent in her story.

In Brick Lane, Nazneen arrives in London a young bride in an arranged marriage. She is scared and longs for home. Her husband, Chanu, is much older than she and has been in London for more than a decade. He is always planning on going home and building a house in Dhaka.

Though for many years she barely leaves the apartment complex, Nazneen somehow understands more and accepts more about her new home than her husband seems to. Chanu has hopes (or maybe illusions) that she sees through rather quickly.

The other women in the book seem to be more perceptive about their new homes, too. Maybe it's because they make more connections among themselves than the men do. Or maybe it's because they largely don't have to face the outside world every day and live up to expectations back home.


Cocacy said...

I read Brick Lane and I was very ineresting in reading this one. Great blog by the way.

Airhen said...

What did you think of Brick Lane? John Updike's "Terrorist" touches on some of the same political ground, but I haven't been interested enough to pick it up yet.