Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
A review of Brick Lane- Monica Ali
By Neha Sen
In this debut novel of hers, Monica Ali traces the journey of Nazneen, an eighteen year old girl from a village in Bangladesh, who shifts to London on account of her arranged marriage to a much older Chanu. The journey is not only physical but also involves the transformation of Nazneen from a girl who meekly submits to what Fate has in store for her (as taught by her mother) to a woman who shapes her own destiny. Fate, too, is one of the central characters in the novel, making its mark at every twist in the tale.
Ali’s characters have a richness and depth that very few novelists , especially debutants, are able to give their characters. Her eye for detail brings to life the various characters in the novel ranging from Chanu (who is disillusioned as he is unable to convert his dreams into reality) to Mrs. Islam (the ‘respectable’ usurer). Ali chooses her characters wisely and contrasts them well (Hasina and Nazneen being one such pair), which is what makes Brick Lane a colourful read.
Using a highly descriptive and graphic language, Monica Ali is able to paint the story on a canvas for the readers to ‘see’. The author takes special care to attribute each character with the language suitable to their circumstances, as seen in Hasina’s broken English and Karim’s poor Bengali.
The writing style adopted by Monica Ali in Brick Lane is not monotonous, and flits between Bangladesh and Britain, with the aid of Hasina’s letters.
Nazneen’s confrontation with Mrs. Islam and her refusal to pay any more money to her symbolized the change in her character. In that one moment, Ali expertly transforms Nazneen into a strong woman from a meek one. This scene struck a chord in my heart as it showed that when people decide to stand up for their rights and act, they can expect a response in favour of them, or at least derive satisfaction from having tried. In a country like India, where the voices of the marginalized are often not heard, the courage to speak up for oneself is required.
Even though Brick Lane progresses at a slow pace, with its strong plot focusing on marriage, migration and empowerment, it is a wonderful read. The power of the plot can be gauged from the fact that Granta selected Ali as one of its Best Young British Novelists of the decade, only by looking at her unfinished draft.