Book Review Sample: Brick Lane by Monica Ali

“Monica Ali affirms that decisions based on our characters, determine our lives. In her novel, Brick Lane, she tells of a story about a young Bengali girl, Nazneen and her sister, Hasina. She portrays the struggles that the two girls undergo due to their cultural idea of fate acting as their guiding principle in their lives, clearly illustrating that character determines our lives. The two girls are ignorant of the fact “A man’s character is his fate” (Ali 3). Their ignorance is depicted when their future is determined by the choices they make. For example, Hasina elopes with the man she loves despite her father’s disapproval. She elopes because it is her trait to do what she wants or wishes regardless of whether she needs to do it or not. Nazneen accepted to marry Chanu, who is twice her age. She accepted to marry him because it was her father’s wish to marry him. Her father’s choice of marriage is not products of fate because it was Nazneen’s choice to respect her father’s decision due to her loyal and obedient nature. Her choice is the force behind her “twist of fate.” Hasina gets a marriage that is based on short-term happiness. Her actions do not allow her to return to her father’s house when she realizes she had made a mistake.

It is evident that the two sisters have different characters making them have different fates. Nazneen is thought to be dead at birth, but it is realized that she is still alive, and it was fated that she would die because she would not eat. She grows listening to various stories of how she was left to fate. Her culture gives her reasons as to why she ought to let fate dictate her life. “What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne” (Ali 4-5). Her experiences model her character to be obedient, loyal, and a serious young girl in the society. It is evident that she is obedient when her father shows her the man’s picture that he had picked to marry her, she says, “‘Abba, it is good that you have chosen my husband. I hope I can be a good wife, like Amma” (Ali 5). The statement illustrates that she is a loyal daughter. Hasina is beautiful and she is born without difficulty. Her early life models her to develop a unique character that is based on her own decisions, “Listens to no one” (Ali 5). “It was a fact that being beautiful brought hardship” (Ali 34). When she was sixteen years she eloped with Malek, a nephew of Bengali’s sawmilling owner.

Bengali culture is strict, and it controls the lives of the women. Daughters are significant investments that further the interests of the families through the dowries paid in marriages. However, Hasina was trouble from her birth, “Older women began to say, even before she turned eleven, that such beauty could have no earthly purpose but trouble.” Her elopement with Malek went against the Bengali principles and her father’s plans. Her father had wished to get investments through payment of her dowry. Her selfish act brings shame to the two families, Malek’s family and her family. Her father, Hamid was angry with her, “Cursing his whore-pig daughter whose head would be severed the moment she came crawling back” (Ali 5). He sat for sixteen days and sixteen nights in his compound waiting for her daughter. Her crime was great that her father was not willing to allow her to come back to his house.

The differences in Nazneen and Hasina’s character push their fates farther apart. Hasina leaves her husband after eloping with him. She is unhappy in the marriage and she leaves her husband to follow her wishes. Hasina writes her sister a letter informing her of her departure from the marriage, “In morning soon as husband go out for work I go away to Dhaka. Our landlady Mrs. Kashem… says it is not good decision (Ali 41). “Hasina leaves despite the landlady’s advice to stay with her husband. Hasina has an ideal to always follow her heart and goes against many people in search of her quest. She continues to write her sister letters informing her sister of her new address, “New address in Narayananj Job in new factory I am machinist… now” (Ali 116). The obedient and loyal Nazneen takes a logical step of starting a family of her own. Her sister goes against the Bengali culture that requires a woman to live with her father or husband. She is allowed to live alone when she is widowed, but Hasina stays in an apartment alone and she has a job in a garment workshop, which is against the Bengali principles…”

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