Sunday, 16 December 2007

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

FIRST published four years ago, Brick Lane has taken off again as it's "now a major film".

Its filming in London caused furious controversy among touchy Bangladeshi immigrants who said it caricatured them.

You'd have some sympathy - here, familiar to every Irish person from our own touchiness, is the self-educated father boasting to his children "We saved their culture in the Dark Ages, copying out Plato and Sophocles".

Here is the highly respectable moneylender, no one admitting that moneylending is what she's doing and interest is what she's charging.

And here, at the centre of the story, is Nazneen, the young matron, married off to a much older husband.

In one telling scene the doctor who comes to treat her friend's addict son - drugs are another unacknowledged secret of the immigrants - wistfully tells her that there are two kinds of love.

He says there's the kind that starts out big and you keep carving bits off it till none is left, and the kind that starts small and grows like a pearl with the repeated irritations of married life.

Nazneen experiences both kinds. She has passion with handsome young radical Karim, who grows more and more Islamic despite their adulterous love.

But deeper in the end is her affection for her husband, the darling Chanu, a man full of theories and educational ambition, and in the end the better man.

Very funny and absolutely lovable, this deserves every copy it sells.

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