This book, by Monica Ali, was on the reading list for my 20th Century British Literature course. It tells the story of Nazneen, a young Bangladeshi who is practically forced into marrying a man much older than her and to move with him to London. There she finds herself living a life completely different from the one she was used to, she doesn’t know the culture nor the language, and the only contact she has with her roots are the letters she exchanges with her sister.
This is a book about race, gender and ethnicity, and it paints a portrait of how life can be for Bangladeshi migrants through the eyes of a woman who has never aspired to anything, but who, sooner or later, needs to learn to take control of her life.
I cannot say that I didn’t like the book because I did find it quite interesting and it did give me a lot to think about. However, I still have to confess that I found many episodes so slow that they bordered on the tedious. I understand that Nazneen’s passiveness is a big plot point, but her constant lack of interest, her passive reactions and all in all her whole personality made it really hard for me to really follow her story. As readers we’re supposed to feel bad for her lack of options, to feel the dullness of her marriage and to side with her, but it is not easy when Nazneen never actually reacts to anything.
Despite that, it is a well written book, with a good story and a relevant theme, especially with all that’s been going on since Brexit. I do think that the book could have been 100 to 150 pages less and the message would have been the same, but it is a good read. Recommended for those who enjoy slower stories about real topics.