The novel Brick Lane by Monica Ali begins with the story of Nazneen’s birth. Nazneen’s mother Rupban goes into early labor, and Nazneen is thought to be stillborn at first. After realizing Nazneen is alive but weak, the midwife tells Rupban she can either take Nazneen to the hospital or leave her and see what her fate is. Rupban decides that fate cannot be changed, and Nazneen will be stronger if she does not waste energy fighting against fate. Nazneen eventually survives. 

Nazneen grows up constantly being reminded that she must not fight fate. Her younger sister Hasina elopes when she is sixteen and never returns home. In turn, it is arranged for Nazneen to marry a much older man named Chanu and move to London with him. 

At 18, Nazneen is living in the neighborhood of Tower Hamlets in London with her husband Chanu. She stays at home during the day, busying herself with housework and occasionally reading letters from Hasina. She also spends time with two neighbors, Mrs Islam and Razia, who often visit Nazneen and gossip about the other women from the Bangladeshi immigrant community in Tower Hamlets. 

Dr Azad, a respected member of the community, is visiting Nazneen and Chanu for dinner. Chanu boasts about his education and upcoming promotion, hoping Dr Azad will put in a good word for him, but Dr Azad reveals that he does not know Chanu’s employer. 

Nazneen watches an ice skating routine on TV and is fascinated by it. She starts watching ice skating instead of doing her chores and when they stop showing ice skating on TV, Nazneen is relieved and prays five times a day to make up for her behavior. Nazneen does not leave the apartment often because Chanu does not like it, but she sometimes visits Razia in her block of the council estate. One day, Nazneen tells Chanu that she is pregnant. Chanu is happy and thinks he can use the baby as a bargaining chip to get a promotion sooner. 

Nazneen leaves the estate on her own, heading for Brick Lane. She wishes to know how it would feel to be lost in an unfamiliar city because Hasina sent her a letter saying she ran away from her abusive husband and is now living alone in Dhaka. A man stops and tries to speak to Nazneen in Hindi, Urdu, and then English. She does not understand him and only tells him “Sorry”. Despite still being lost, Nazneen is proud that she spoke in English. 

At home, Nazneen asks Chanu if he can go to Dhaka to help Hasina, but he laughs at this suggestion. She begins to hate Chanu and rebels against him in small ways such as ignoring her chores or not eating around him, but he does not notice. Razia tells Nazneen that she is taking English lessons at a college. Later, Nazneen asks Chanu if she too can take English lessons with Razia, but Chanu tells he...

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