Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Sunday, June 01, 2003  

And she's beautiful, too

"Surely, Brick Lane can't be that good? Actually, it's better. Focusing on a cross-section of the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, a community all but invisible to the rest of London, Ali's novel is warm, shrewd, startling and hugely readable: the sort of book you race through greedily, dreading the last page. At its heart is Nazneen, whose arranged marriage brings her from the dirt tracks and rice fields of rural Bangladesh to Tower Hamlets... [and] her younger sister Hasina, who broke all the rules and ran away from her family for love - an act of rebellion that in time invites the inevitable reproof....

"The book follows Nazneen and Hasina, living very different lives in very different places, but finally daring to hope that they may have found a similar sort of happiness. The themes are the big ones - identity, self-determination, the freight of family - and they are kept afloat by the buoyancy of Ali's characterisation, which occasionally verges on the Dickensian without ever resorting to caricature."

- From a feature in today's UK Observer on Monica Ali, recently chosen as one of Britain's best young authors, and her much-hyped debut novel Brick Lane, due out tomorrow from Doubleday. It's a strangely inert article that not only ends abruptly, but awkwardly sidesteps the controversy surrounding Ali/her publisher's refusal to allow right of first interview to Maya Jaggi of the Guardian because of her race. (It was allegedly felt that by the Guardian choosing Jaggi, who is Asian, to conduct the interview, Ali was being pigeon-holed as an "Asian" writer.) This Observer piece was written by one Harriet Lane.

posted by Jonathan | 1:46 AM 0 comments


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