Excerpt from Brick Lane by Monica Ali, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Brick Lane

by Monica Ali

Brick Lane
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2003, 384 pages
    Jun 2004, 432 pages

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She went to the bedroom and opened the wardrobe. The letter was in a shoebox at the bottom. She sat on the bed to read it with her feet almost touching the black lacquered doors. Sometimes she dreamed the wardrobe had fallen on her, crushing her on the mattress. Sometimes she dreamed she was locked inside it and hammered and hammered but nobody heard.

Our cousin Ahmed have given me your address praise God. I hear of marriage and pray many time on your wedding day I pray now also. I pray your husband is good man. You will write and telling all things to me.

I so happy now I almost scared. Hardly dare opening my eye. Why it is? What is bringing fear? God not putting me on earth only to suffer. I know this always even when days bringing no light. Maleks uncle have got for him First Class job in railway company. This uncle very High Up at railway. Malek go out early in morning and coming back late late. He not knowing much about trains and such like but he say too also that do not matter. What matter is being smart. Nobody smarter than my husband.

Can you believe? We live in block of flat is three story high. Our place have two room. No veranda but I go up on roof. There is brown stone floor it cool your feet. We have bed with metal spring a cabinet and two chairs in bedroom. I fold saris and put in box under bed. In living room we has three cane chair a rug one stool (Malek like to put feet on) a crate is only temporary before we getting table. Also kerosene stove I keep under shawl for making tidy. My pot and pans is keep inside the crate. Hardly any cockroach only one maybe two I see time to time.

Even we have nothing I happy. We have love. Love is happiness. Sometime I feel to run and jump like goat. This is how we do on way to school. But not much room for running here and I sixteen year old and married woman.

Everything good between us now. I do not let my tongue make trouble for it as my husband say. Just because man is kind to wife it do not mean she can say what she like. If women understanding this no one will beat. Malek have First Class job. I pray for son. I pray Maleks mother forgive the "crime" of our marriage. It will come. Time comes she love me like daughter. If I wrong she is not true mother for mother love every part of son. Now I part of him. If Amma alive you think she forgive this thing Abba cannot? Sometime I think yes she do that. Many time I think no and then I angry and also too sad.

Sister I think of you every day and send love. I send respect to husband. Now you have address you will write and tell all thing about London. It make me tremble you so far away. You remember those story we hear as children begin like this. "Once there was prince who lived in far off land seven seas and thirteen rivers away." That is how I think of you. But as princess.

We see each other before long time pass and we as little girls again.

Someone was knocking on the front door of the flat. Nazneen opened it a crack, with the chain on, then closed it while she slid the chain off, and opened it wide.

"No one is saying it to his face," Mrs. Islam was telling Razia Iqbal, "but everyone is saying it behind his back. I don't like that kind of gossip."

Nazneen exchanged salaams with her visitors and went to make tea.

Mrs. Islam folded handkerchiefs, leaning over from the sofa to the low table and tucking them up the bobbled sleeves of her cardigan.

"Spreading rumors is our national pastime," said Razia. "That's not to say it is a good thing. Most of the time there's not a shred of truth in it." She gave a sideways look at Nazneen, who was setting down the tea things. "What is it they are saying this time? If I hear it from someone else I can set them straight about everything."

"Well," said Mrs. Islam slowly. She settled back against the brown upholstery. Her sleeves bulged and bagged. She had carpet slippers on over black socks. Nazneen looked through the glass at the center of the table and watched Mrs. Islam's feet twitch with an excitement that her face did not betray. "You have to bear in mind she had no children. This is after twelve years of marriage."

From Brick Lane by Monica Ali. Copyright Monica Ali 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

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