Brick Lane by Monica Ali is one exciting piece of art as far as writing is concerned. The novel is not about the title as depicted by the author rather it unmasks the life journey of the protagonist, Nazneen, the struggles she goes through from the very moment of birth to the time every event around her takes a sudden switch. Ali deploys forgettable images; Nazneen’s mother “had been ripening like a mango on a tree” ( Morton 171-192). The midwife “was more desiccated than an old coconut.” Ali’s talent is much higher than the first impression would give to a reader. She has a winning way of adventuring how hard life builds gradually to provide a stunning life experience. Nazneen is not counted off at the time she arrives in London as a wife to Chanu. Ali develops her prose with every growing step Nazneen takes to build as an individual. Nazneen struggles to create a life for herself within her traditional marriage and living in London.
At the centre of the novel lies a marvellous unfold of an illicit affair. As a good Bengali wife, Nazneen explores her full sexuality with Karim, a fierce young Muslim, who is on a mission to radicalize the local community” (Morton 178-180). Every appearance Karim makes at Nazneen’s house when bringing sewing materials creates a strong physical attraction, destroying their moral expectations. Monica Ali exhaustively captures every detail of Karim’s attractiveness to Nazneen, all the way from Karim’s citrus scent to his political viewpoints.
Ali gives Brick Lane some comical touch; Chanu is less than a figure of fun, his big belly, crumpled trousers, useless certificates that do not strike any qualification, deluded ambitions and corns on his feet that his wife dutifully scraps away every night. (Morton 184-186) Ali paints an excellent portrait of how this kind of marriage is angered by the belief that a woman ought to grow beyond building a strange relationship of closeness and apartness, how they hurt each other and also look up to one another.
Ali’s political stance is treated with utmost rationality as she depicts in her characters. She creates an environment of self-judgment for every action or word uttered by the characters, such that even when Karim’s group react to September 11th or the Oldham riots, it should not be seen as if Ali is using this to prove a point. The meetings of “Bengal Tigers,” where boys in Nike fleece and girls in headscarves argue whether they should engage the jihadism or the injustices they are facing locally, is an impressive piece of art.
Sitting in Karim’s meetings gives Nazneen the full opportunity to admire the love of her life, and in complete admiration for Karim’s certainty about his place in life. Nazneen with time finds out that Karim’s ambitions of Islamic renaissance could be nothing more than Chanu’s empty dreams and plans.
Ali has a light touch comically that saves from exaggerating anything funny and which allows her protagonists room to live and breathe. For instance, the kind of relations that Chanu has with the doctor seems comical in nature, where both of them tries to impress the other, but later his respect is pricked, and at the end the relationship takes another turn of emotional build up, with Nazneen noting the great love both gents have for each other.
Moment after moment Ali’s influence of material slips up. The relations between the women and Nazneen- her daughters and her best friend, Razia- should be a stepping stone to independence. Nazneen, trusting Razia, tells her about her (Nazneen) relationship, only for Razia to be unimpressed with the whole idea; “Razia rolled her big bony shoulders. She was tired. Even her shoulders were too heavy for her today. ‘In love,’ she said, ‘It is the English style.'” On the contrary, Ali paints such character to blossom into something more significant than the ego and go through the harder times throughout the novel.
Monica Ali does it brilliantly in her first novel in placing the characters in their right context and manages to interpret the complexities of one culture- Bangladesh’s and make it approachable to the westerners. She shows exhaustively how young Bangladesh immigrants born in British struggling with their real identity and religious extremism.
Ali tries to suggest that all her characters are walking in their narrow lanes and facing all manner of walls on all edges. It is about how the vulnerable struggle to live and survive, not forgetting striving for the truth, and how the whole experience brings them up stronger and reformed. Ali treats acts of terror with utmost caution. It is a common enemy currently worldwide, with countries merging up to fight it to the last sweat. Painting Karim as a failure in his course is a brilliant idea Ali deploys, fighting it through writing, saying that Karim’s life was up to no right direction. Karim, feeling that Islamic religion should have a more significant place in society than other denominations or races is a no-feel for Ali. Peaceful co-existence should be promoted in all corners of the world.
Morton, Stephen. “Multicultural Neoliberalism, Global Textiles, and the Making of the Indebted Female Entrepreneur in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.” Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018. 171-192.