Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

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Nazneen Character Analysis

The primary protagonist of the book. As the “Child Who Was Left to Her Fate”—meaning her mother didn’t try to save her when she was born premature, but let God decide if she would live or die—Nazneen grows up convinced that it is always best to trust everything to God. She has her mother, Rupban, to thank for this life philosophy, which shapes Nazneen’s character as a submissive and timid woman, unwilling to act on her own if such action could be construed as going against God’s will. Having moved from a small village in Bangladesh to London to marry Chanu, Nazneen successfully avoids taking responsibility for her own life throughout the early years of her marriage and motherhood. In her early thirties she begins to earn her own money as a seamstress and throws herself into an adulterous affair with Karim, the young man who brings her clothes to repair. By the end of the book, she has rejected her previous submissive nature and decided to take fate into her own hands. With Chanu preparing to take Nazneen and their daughters, Shahana and Bibi, back to Bangladesh, and Karim proposing marriage, Nazneen rejects both men’s plans, opting instead to stay in London and make a new life for herself.

Nazneen Quotes in Brick Lane

The Brick Lane quotes below are all either spoken by Nazneen or refer to Nazneen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Brick Lane published in 2003.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“You see,” he said, a frequent opener although often she did not see, “it is the white underclass, like Wilkie, who are most afraid of people like me. To him, and people like him, we are the only thing standing in the way of them sliding totally to the bottom of the pile. As long as we are below them, then they are above something. If they see us rise then they are resentful because we have left our proper place.”

Related Characters: Chanu (speaker), Nazneen, Wilkie
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Nazneen, hobbling and halting, began to be aware of herself. Without a coat, without a suit, without a white face, without a destination. A leafshake of fear—or was it excitement?—passed through her legs. But they were not aware of her. In the next instant she knew it. They could not see her any more than she could see God. They knew that she existed (just as she knew that He existed) but unless she did something, waved a gun, halted the traffic, they would not see her. She enjoyed this thought.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

“If you think you are powerless, then you are. Everything is within you, where God put it. If your husband does not do what is required, think what you yourself have left undone.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Islam (speaker), Chanu, Nazneen
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

You can spread your soul over a paddy field, you can whisper to a mango tree, you can feel the earth beneath your toes and know that this is the place, the place where it begins and ends. But what can you tell to a pile of bricks? The bricks will not be moved.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Mohammad Raqib (Ruku) , Mrs. Islam
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Nazneen listened, breathing quietly and hoping that if they forgot about her they might reveal the source of their woes. It was something to do with being a woman, of that much she was sure. When she was a woman she would find out. She looked forward to that day. She longed to be enriched by this hardship, to cast off her childish baggy pants and long shirt and begin to wear this suffering that was as rich and layered and deeply colored as the saris that enfolded Amma's troubled bones.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Rupban, Auntie
Related Symbols: Clothes and Textiles
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“I’m talking about the clash between Western values and our own. I’m talking about the struggle to assimilate and the need to preserve one’s identity and heritage. I’m talking about children who don’t know what their identity is. I’m talking about the feelings of alienation engendered by a society where racism is prevalent. I’m talking about the terrific struggle to preserve one’s sanity while striving to achieve the best for one’s family. I’m talking—”

Related Characters: Chanu (speaker), Nazneen, Mrs. Azad, Dr. Azad
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Sinking, sinking, drinking water. When everyone in the village was fasting a long month, when not a grain, not a drop of water passed between the parched lips of any able-bodied man, woman, or child over ten, when the sun was hotter than the cooking pot and dusk was just a febrile wish, the hypocrite went down to the pond to duck his head, to dive and sink, to drink and sink a little lower.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Chanu
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

It was, Nazneen realized, more complicated than that. Even if Karim was her future, and could not be avoided, there were problems. Happiness, for instance. That would count against her. Because fate must be met with indifference. For the benefit of her angels, she said, “Whichever way, it does not matter.”

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Karim
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“I don't know, Shahana. Sometimes I look back and I am shocked. Every day of my life I have prepared for success, worked for it, waited for it, and you don't notice how the days pass until nearly a lifetime has finished. Then it hits you—the thing you have been waiting for has already gone by. And it was going in the other direction. It's like I've been waiting on the wrong side of the road for a bus that was already full.”

Related Characters: Chanu (speaker), Nazneen, Shahana
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

For years she had felt she must not relax. If she relaxed, things would fall apart. Only the constant vigilance and planning, the low-level, unremarked and unrewarded activity of a woman, kept the household from crumbling.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Chanu, Shahana, Bibi
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

Fly way and find some water I tell him. But he do not fly just sit there never stretch the wing and call like as if all his brothers better join there on roof where he find some secret like paradise.

Related Characters: Hasina (speaker), Nazneen
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“You think that a clothing is just a clothing. But as a matter of fact, it is not. In a place like this it is a serious thing.”

Related Characters: Arzoo (speaker), Nazneen, Karim
Related Symbols: Clothes and Textiles
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

How had she made him? She did not know. She had patched him together, working in the dark. She had made a quilt out of pieces of silk, scraps of velvet, and now that she held it up to the light the stitches showed up large and crude, and they cut across everything.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Karim
Related Symbols: Clothes and Textiles
Page Number: 382
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

“No,” she said, “we must not stand in the way of Fate. Whatever happens, I accept it. And my child must not waste any energy fighting against Fate. That way, she will be stronger.”

Related Characters: Rupban (speaker), Nazneen, Mumtaz, Banesa
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

“A girl,” said Rupban.

“I know. Never mind,” said Hamid. “What can you do?” And he went away again.

Related Characters: Rupban (speaker), Hamid (speaker), Nazneen
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge. So that, at the age of thirty-four, after she had been given three children and had one taken away, when she had a futile husband and had been fated a young and demanding lover, when for the first time she could not wait for the future to be revealed but had to make it for herself, she was as startled by her own agency as an infant who waves a clenched fist and strikes itself upon the eye.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Silent. Nazneen fell asleep on the sofa. She looked out across jade green

rice fields and swam in the cool dark lake. She walked arm-in-arm to school with Hasina and skipped part of the way and fell and they dusted their knees with their hands. And the mynah birds called from the trees, and the goats fretted by, and the big, sad water buffaloes passed like a funeral. And heaven, which was above, was wide and empty and the land stretched out ahead and she could see to the very end of it, where the earth smudged the sky in a dark blue line.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Hasina
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

“What’s more, she is a good worker. Cleaning and cooking and all that. The only complaint I could make is she can’t put my files in order, because she has no English. I don't complain, though. As I say, a girl from the village: totally unspoilt.”

Related Characters: Chanu (speaker), Nazneen
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

“And when they jump ship and scuttle over here, then in a sense they are home again. And you see, to a white person, we are all the same: dirty little monkeys all in the same monkey clan. But these people are peasants. Uneducated. Illiterate. Close-minded. Without ambition.” He sat back and

stroked his belly. “I don’t look down on them, but what can you do? If a man has only ever driven a rickshaw and never in his life held a book in his hand, then what can you expect from him?”

Related Characters: Chanu (speaker), Nazneen
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

“Mixing with all sorts: Turkish, English, Jewish. All sorts. I am not old-fashioned,” said Mrs. Islam. “I don't wear burkha. I keep purdah in my mind, which is the most important thing. Plus, I have cardigans and anoraks and a scarf for my head. But if you mix with all these people, even if they are good people, you have to give up your culture to accept theirs. That’s how it is.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Islam (speaker), Nazneen, Razia Iqbal, Jorina
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Brick Lane LitChart as a printable PDF.
Brick Lane PDF

Nazneen Character Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the character Nazneen appears in Brick Lane. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Dinnertime has arrived, and Dr. Azad and Chanu are at the table where Nazneen waits to serve them. Dr. Azad tells them both a story about two young men... (full context)
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...goes on about his family’s greed and seemingly endless appeals for money, Dr. Azad and Nazneen exchange looks. Nazneen is keenly aware that it is a look she, as a loyal... (full context)
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Later, Nazneen is drawn to the television screen while she is cleaning up. She watches while a... (full context)
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...a degree in English from Dhaka University and can quote Chaucer and Dickens and Hardy. Nazneen focuses again on cleaning, hoping Chanu won’t launch into a long quotation whose meaning she... (full context)
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Chanu then goes on to explain to Nazneen that it is the white underclass that is most threatened by men like him. Members... (full context)
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Nazneen cuts the corns on Chanu’s feet while he talks about the evening’s dinner, which he... (full context)
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Nazneen’s days begin to blend into each other, the next almost identical to the last. She... (full context)
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Nazneen is grateful when ice skating is no longer on the television. Soon she begins praying... (full context)
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One day, Nazneen and Chanu visit the shops on Bethnal Green Road. Nazneen is looking for material for... (full context)
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That night in bed, Nazneen wonders what Chanu does all day at work. Does he spend his time discussing whether... (full context)
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Nazneen rarely ventures out of her apartment. This is mostly because Chanu does not want her... (full context)
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When Razia moves to a different block of the Tower Hamlets, Nazneen has more reason to leave her apartment. She stays on the estate, though, venturing only... (full context)
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Razia’s irreverent sense of humor and talent for mimicry takes Nazneen’s mind off her sister. Together, they gossip about their neighbors, including a young man who’d... (full context)
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Nazneen looks around Razia’s apartment, taking note of the clutter but seeing that Razia has arranged... (full context)
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Nazneen tells Razia that her sister made a love marriage. Nazneen then recounts her sister’s story,... (full context)
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Nazneen depends on regular prayer, housework, and visits with Razia to remain content in her marriage... (full context)
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...the drawing, saying he can’t possibly miss out on a promotion now. One week later, Nazneen gets a letter from Hasina. At first, it thrills her. Then it crushes her spirits,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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It is morning and Nazneen hands Chanu his lunch, watches him head off to work, and, waving at the tattoo... (full context)
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At the end of Brick Lane, Nazneen makes another turn, ending up in a jungle of skyscrapers and businesspeople rushing to work.... (full context)
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Nazneen sits on the bench and recalls the contents of Hasina’s latest letter, the one that... (full context)
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Nazneen needs desperately to urinate. The baby has taken over her bladder, and Nazneen hasn’t peed... (full context)
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Back on the street, Nazneen stares up at the skyscrapers, which seem to be ripping the clouds apart. She thinks... (full context)
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Back home, Nazneen makes a dinner of lentils and rice and soaks her rain-sodden sari in the bathtub.... (full context)
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Nazneen wants to shout at Chanu that anything is possible. She knows this now because she... (full context)
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Nazneen’s rebellious spirit manifests itself in her new-found indifference to household chores. She secretly adds hot... (full context)
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The plan worked. That was how the village got its new well. Mrs. Islam tells Nazneen that she, too, must act in order to get what she wants. If she feels... (full context)
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Dr. Azad is as prim in his professional demeanor as he is in his personal. Nazneen takes note of his neat desk, which contains the usual assortment of pens and paper,... (full context)
...in the waiting room, Mrs. Islam appears to be asleep, although her eyes are open. Nazneen wonders if this is how she knows everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets, although she supposes it... (full context)
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Nazneen is performing her midday prayer. It is difficult now that she is pregnant. She cannot... (full context)
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Razia knocks on the door, interrupting Nazneen at prayer. She has medicine she says will help with the burning Nazneen feels when... (full context)
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Nazneen notices that, the larger she gets, the harder it is to navigate all the furniture... (full context)
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Razia asks Nazneen about Chanu’s prospects for promotion, and Nazneen tells her that Chanu thinks he has not... (full context)
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Nazneen is shocked and asks Razia if her husband will be angry with her. To Nazneen,... (full context)
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It is evening, and Nazneen and Chanu are getting ready for bed. Nazneen is continuing her housework strike, but Chanu... (full context)
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Nazneen mentions to Chanu that Razia is learning English, and she asks him if she might... (full context)
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That night, Nazneen gets up and goes to the kitchen to eat. She rarely eats much in front... (full context)
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One day, Nazneen and Hasina see Makku Pagla’s umbrella bobbing in the well, and they suspect that he... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The baby is born, and Nazneen finds him miraculous. He is fair-skinned and beautiful, traits Chanu attributes to his grandmother’s cousin... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam is paying a visit to Nazneen and Raqib, showing Nazneen how to massage the baby to keep him limber and healthy.... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam tells Nazneen to give Raqib to her; her niece is coming over and loves babies. The break... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam again tells Nazneen again to give Raqib to her, but Nazneen refuses. She informs Mrs. Islam that Raqib... (full context)
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One Sunday, while Nazneen feeds Raqib, Chanu talks of Dr. Azad, who has yet to invite them to his... (full context)
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Before they leave the house, though, Nazneen is forced to listen to Chanu go on and on about his chances for promotion... (full context)
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Chanu reads two passages from Richard III aloud to Nazneen, both dealing with Richard’s self-hatred. While Raqib chews on a piece of bread, Nazneen continues... (full context)
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Nazneen pays a visit to Razia, who is, as usual, out of temper with her children.... (full context)
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Razia sends both kids outside and begins to tell Nazneen about her husband’s frustrating approach to money. Rather than giving her some to spend on... (full context)
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...Islam, who, rumor has it, is not the upstanding woman everyone presumed her to be. Nazneen is intrigued, and Razia goes on to explain that Mrs. Islam’s habit of keeping handkerchiefs... (full context)
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Nazneen and Chanu are on a bus on their way to Dr. Azad’s house. Chanu comments,... (full context)
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Nazneen notices that Chanu’s soles are separating from his shoes and the knees of his pants... (full context)
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Nazneen wonders why her father would marry her off to such a man. She grows angry... (full context)
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If she’d known what her life with Chanu would be like, Nazneen thinks, she would have wept on her wedding day. In truth, she did weep on... (full context)
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Such sadness bored Hasina, so she dragged Nazneen away and they raided the local store, looking for tamarind and henna. Then they braided... (full context)
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Later, while nearly everyone in the village took a nap, Nazneen climbed a tree and looked out over the nearby jungle and fields, wondering if, when... (full context)
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In the present, Chanu and Nazneen stand outside a large house landscaped with elaborate flagstones and fake animals. When Chanu rings... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Chanu and Nazneen settle into Dr. Azad’s garish living room.  Tiger figurines snarl in front of a gas... (full context)
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...TV dinners in the living room. Mrs. Azad does her best to ignore Chanu and Nazneen, drinking beer and watching television, which she keeps at a high volume. Chanu joins her... (full context)
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...the same, coppery color. Once she gets her money, she leaves, hardly acknowledging Chanu and Nazneen. Chanu says that is the tragedy of being an immigrant. One is always torn between... (full context)
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Mrs. Azad invites Nazneen to come with her. She grabs a teddy bear from a cupboard and hands it... (full context)
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Sometime later, Nazneen wakes from a dream in which Hasina is working in a garment factory, ironing collars,... (full context)
Chapter 6
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From the ambulance, Nazneen senses that the city has shattered. It is in fragments. The hospital, too, seems like... (full context)
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Chanu brings Nazneen food, first from the hospital cantina, and then from home. She eats ravenously. He brings... (full context)
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It begins to dawn on Nazneen that she no longer despises her husband. In fact, in the time they have spent... (full context)
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Nazma and Sorupa, two of Nazneen’s neighbors from Tower Hamlets, have come to visit Nazneen and Raqib in the hospital. Jorina... (full context)
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...to work, but her husband has said he will slit her throat if she does. Nazneen says Razia should not want to be like Jorina. Jorina works and her family is... (full context)
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...Razia is beginning to think she should give up and become a housepainter. She and Nazneen share a laugh about this scenario and Chanu arrives with food from home. He greets... (full context)
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Nazneen eats Chanu’s food ravenously. He is a very good cook, and she feels bad that... (full context)
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Razia takes advantage of their time alone to tell Nazneen something she has learned about Mrs. Islam. The “respectable” woman is, in fact, a loan... (full context)
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Chanu brings Nazneen her prayer beads, and she begins praying hurriedly, wanting to get to Raqib, but then... (full context)
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Raqib has been in the hospital eight days, long enough for Nazneen to begin to be able to distinguish the family members and friends of the sick... (full context)
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Chanu then tells Nazneen that he has resigned from his job on the council. He is clearing out his... (full context)
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Raqib is awake and Nazneen basks in the joy of holding him, of sticking her finger in his mouth and... (full context)
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Nazneen can now see that her mother was wrong about some things. Children’s lives should not... (full context)
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This realization brings to mind the days just after Rupban’s death, when Mumtaz asked Nazneen to help her wash her mother’s dead body. Mumtaz wonders aloud about her sister-in-law’s absolute... (full context)
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Nazneen wakes to the beep and glow of the hospital machines. Razia is there, biting her... (full context)
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Nazneen returns to her apartment, appalled by the mess. Everywhere she looks she sees furniture in... (full context)
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Nazneen is alone in her apartment. She bathes carefully and then, approaching the dreaded dark wardrobe,... (full context)
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While Nazneen tidies the apartment, it occurs to her that by willing her son back to health... (full context)
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Nazneen finds Chanu in Raqib’s room at the hospital. Chanu informs Nazneen that their son is... (full context)
Chapter 7
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This chapter is made up entirely of letters from Hasina to Nazneen. The letters begin in May 1988 with Hasina expressing sympathy over the death of Raqib. ... (full context)
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Hasina ends her letter telling Nazneen that she is waiting for hers. She congratulates her on having such an ambitious and... (full context)
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In her next letter, dated November 1988, Hasina writes of Nazneen’s beautiful apartment. She supposes Nazneen has grown used to the lovely corner cabinet and glass... (full context)
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Hasina writes again in January 1988, observing that Nazneen’s letters are so short they end almost before they begin. Hasina knows this is because... (full context)
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In her next letter, dated March 1989, Hasina congratulates Nazneen on her pregnancy. She predicts that now, with so much at stake, Chanu will finally... (full context)
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Hasina writes again in August, telling Nazneen that she, too, thinks of Rupban sometimes but she does not dream of her like... (full context)
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It is now September, and Hasina writes to ask Nazneen to burn her last letter. Rupban would never have threatened to kill herself—that would have... (full context)
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It is January 1990, and Hasina congratulates Nazneen on her new daughter, wishing that the little girl might grow up to be as... (full context)
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It is now August, and Hasina tells Nazneen not to worry about her. It is quiet around her at the garment factory, but... (full context)
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It is now March, and Hasina tells Nazneen she is overjoyed to hear that her baby is walking. She asks her to send... (full context)
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...is okay with Hasina, who often sits nearby while the jute cutters eat, thinking of Nazneen and about how, while they are separated by a great distance, at least they are... (full context)
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...listens to the jute cutters’ tall tales, remembering a time when Hamid took her and Nazneen to watch the men dive for the fibrous plant. Hussain often talks to her on... (full context)
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Hasina begins her next letter by confessing to Nazneen that she has brought shame on herself. She hopes her sister can forgive her. Then... (full context)
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...Then she ran away from him. She is afraid to run anymore. She knows that Nazneen wants to bring her to London, but she begs her to save her money. She... (full context)
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It is now February 1992, and Hasina writes happily about having another niece. She tells Nazneen she thinks of her new daughter, Bibi, and Shahana, Nazneen’s oldest, quite often. Meanwhile, Hasina... (full context)
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In October 1992, Hasina writes a short letter to Nazneen, telling her that Zainab and her family have disappeared. Otherwise, everything else is the same.... (full context)
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Hasina’s next letter is dated July 1994. She tells Nazneen she is happy to hear about Chanu’s new job at Leisure Center. She asks if... (full context)
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...her of cats’ eyes. She closes her letter hoping Chanu gets better soon and offering Nazneen her home remedy for ulcers. (full context)
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...everything be in the proper order, especially his shoes and laces. Hasina knows how much Nazneen likes leaving her flat, but Hasina loves the new walls that hold her in. (full context)
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...can survive that way. She hopes she never becomes one of them. She writes to Nazneen about how she plans to soon visit Ahmed’s home village to meet his father and... (full context)
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...asks after Shahana and hopes she is having a good time at school. She reassures Nazneen that it is perfectly normal to cry some as children grow up, but if Nazneen’s... (full context)
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Hasina’s next letter is dated May 1995. She writes to Nazneen about Ahmed’s appearance, how he recently got a sunburn and he still has blisters on... (full context)
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...still May 1995. Hasina’s house is clean, and she wiles away the hours writing to Nazneen. Ahmed, she says, is pleased with her. He finds her cleaning satisfactory. He is happy... (full context)
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Hasina writes, too, that she isn’t sure what sort of pills Nazneen is taking to cure her sadness, but she hopes they work. She is sure that... (full context)
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The next letter is dated a year later. Hasina tells Nazneen not to worry. When she has a stable address and a good job, she will... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The narrative returns to Tower Hamlets in London and Nazneen’s point of view. It is February 2001, and Chanu is on the floor (he rejects... (full context)
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...saying the same thing over and over: “I didn’t ask to be born here!” Later, Nazneen is trimming Chanu’s nose hairs. He tells her it is important that they go home... (full context)
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When Hasina was still working at the garment factory, Nazneen went to Chanu to ask if they might bring her to London. Chanu mocks the... (full context)
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...the Rosemead block of Tower Hamlets, and Chanu remains unemployed, lounging around the apartment where Nazneen tries to keep herself busy, tidying and straightening. She would have liked to begin sewing... (full context)
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...longer pursuing any academic degrees. He teaches more than learns now, and the girls and Nazneen are often his pupils. Today, he is telling Nazneen about a book he’s reading about... (full context)
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...by four European countries and provided England with one third of its Indian empire revenues. Nazneen, meanwhile, thinks of Shahana’s habit of turning inward. Such moments always end in tantrums and... (full context)
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Nazneen gets up in the middle of the night and eats curry cold over the kitchen... (full context)
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...a year off before entering university. Razia smokes and complains and makes fun of Chanu. Nazneen giggles and worries she won’t be able to get the smell out of the apartment... (full context)
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When Chanu returns, he is burdened by two large packages. The box is for Nazneen, an early birthday present. The bag is for him. The girls start unwrapping the box.... (full context)
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Nazneen practices on the sewing machine, getting better all the time. She uses almost every bit... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam then tells Nazneen to open her bag and put the money in the pocket. Misunderstanding, Nazneen roots around... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...to use his computer, managing to slap her wrist. The girls go to bed and Nazneen tells him that Mrs. Islam came by for the money. He says he will get... (full context)
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After the girls go to bed, Nazneen and Chanu watch their daughters sleep. Nazneen sees that Chanu, tenderly moving hair out of... (full context)
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Nazneen recalls a period of time—weeks, she thinks, maybe months, although it felt like an infinity—when... (full context)
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Nazneen finds navigating the triangle of daughter-father-daughter nearly impossible. Bibi is always trying, futilely, to gain... (full context)
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One day, Nazneen is making tea and thinking about the gossip she heard at the gate while waiting... (full context)
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...and lecturing the family on the history of Bengal. He starts shaving, too, and humming. Nazneen recognizes these as good signs. She eventually runs out of sewing and that day, Chanu... (full context)
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Chanu stops being Nazneen’s middleman and becomes a cab driver. One hot day a new middleman shows up, armed... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The first thing Nazneen notices about Karim is that he has a stammer in Bengali. His English is perfectly... (full context)
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After Karim leaves, Nazneen sees that the leaflets are flimsy, black and white things, stapled down the middle. They... (full context)
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...relaxed when he’s away. The girls do their homework in front of the television and Nazneen sews, mentally adding up the money she has saved and stowed in secret places around... (full context)
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Sometimes Chanu works all night and Nazneen makes sure to have food prepared for him when he returns in the morning, famished.... (full context)
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Nazneen is in her daughter’s bedroom, trying to tidy it. Shahana is furious. She says she... (full context)
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Nazneen is beginning to lose her memory of Gouripur. It is slipping from her and only... (full context)
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Nazneen wakes from the dream and gets up to sew. She’s working on a pile of... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Hasina mentions that she has been waiting a long time for a letter from Nazneen. She hopes very much that her words are reaching her. (full context)
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Hasina’s next letter is dated February. She mentions that she has finally gotten Nazneen’s letter. All her others are gone, destroyed in the dark time after her marriage to... (full context)
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...grown as affectionate with Hasina as Daisy, and Hasina closes her letter by observing to Nazneen that all she ever wanted in life was love, and now it has finally found... (full context)
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Nazneen finishes reading Hasina’s letter and puts it away. Razia, dressed in a Union Jack sweatshirt... (full context)
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Karim comes to pick up the vests from Nazneen. While he is there his phone rings—a call from his father, he says. His father... (full context)
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Nazneen tells herself not to go to the meeting, but then she goes anyway. It is... (full context)
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A wiry man continues to challenge Karim. Nazneen thinks of him as the Questioner. Karim and the Questioner vie for the position of... (full context)
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Karim comes to Nazneen’s apartment with jeans and unlined dresses. They talk. He tells her about the persecution of... (full context)
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Dr. Azad is once again having dinner with Chanu and Nazneen. Age has not been kind to his face. It has collapsed completely, although he still... (full context)
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...immigrant. The men talk around each other, never directly addressing what the other is saying. Nazneen is amazed they can keep it up so long. At one point, though, Chanu strays... (full context)
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...he hands it back to her and tells her to read it aloud to him, Nazneen, and Bibi. It is an anti-Muslim screed. The writer claims that, at school, Christian children... (full context)
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Nazneen is walking a respectable distance behind Chanu through Brick Lane. Chanu comments on the exorbitant... (full context)
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Nazneen thinks about the events of her life and how it has always been her perception... (full context)
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Chanu assumes that Nazneen is over-tired and says they will be home soon. Tears come to her eyes. She... (full context)
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...generation, and the Lion Hearts are trying desperately to save a culture not worth saving. Nazneen has begun walking both Shahana and Bibi home from school. (full context)
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Karim often composes leaflets while Nazneen sews. He is unhappy with what he sees as apathy among the members of the... (full context)
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...is the Questioner who, in Karim’s opinion, just does not understand the struggle. Karim tells Nazneen that he will decide what is radical or not, and Nazneen comes to understand that... (full context)
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In the bath, Nazneen thinks about her children, about Shahana’s habit of finishing her homework too quickly and Bibi’s... (full context)
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The next day, when Nazneen goes to pick up the girls from school, the police are in the courtyard, separating... (full context)
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Back in the apartment, Nazneen begins a letter to Hasina, attempting to explain to her what is happening on the... (full context)
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There is another letter from Hasina, dated April 2001. She tells Nazneen that everything is the same. She is fine, working for Lovely and James. She is... (full context)
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In Hasina’s next letter, also dated May, she writes to Nazneen about finding out through the grapevine that her friend, Monju, is near death. She goes... (full context)
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Nazneen turns back to her letter to Hasina. She can’t remember what she found so funny.... (full context)
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Bibi comes over, and wonders what she’s doing. Nazneen checks her throat, as she’d been ill with tonsillitis. Dr. Azad diagnosed her. In his... (full context)
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Nazneen wakes to a feeling of anticipation. Then she sees the hated wardrobe and Chanu’s pimply... (full context)
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...flyers through the doors of white people will end with the death of them all. Nazneen has begun secretly giving money to Karim for the cause. On television, the news is... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Nazneen puts on her red and gold silk sari for no particular reason. The leaves in... (full context)
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Nazneen is out of thread, and she leaves her apartment to go buy some. At the... (full context)
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...distributing horrifying pictures of starving children in Iraq, victims of U.S. sanctions. The photos bring Nazneen close to tears. The Questioner says this is no time for talk; action must be... (full context)
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...messages of support will be sent to Iraq and other Muslim communities around the world. Nazneen goes home to her apartment, fighting the desire to run. She opens the door before... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...the purpose. They begin on a double decker bus and then head for Buckingham Palace. Nazneen is impressed by the building’s size but not its façade. Shahana isn’t impressed by anything.... (full context)
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Nazneen is determined that Chanu not be disappointed in this day, so she peppers him with... (full context)
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In St. James park, Nazneen spreads out a picnic she has prepared. It is an elaborate feast, but Shahana only... (full context)
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...from the imam in woman’s sandals, and he’s started growing a beard. He often tells Nazneen what he has learned about Islam while she changes the sheets. (full context)
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Nazneen forces herself back into the moment in St. James Park with her family. The girls... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam comes for her money the following Monday. Nazneen gives her the fifty pounds she and Chanu agreed upon as a monthly payment. Mrs.... (full context)
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Nazneen and Razia are out shopping. Razia is looking for cloth for Shefali, who just finished... (full context)
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In the store with Razia, Nazneen finds herself wanting to tell her friend all her secrets. She tells her only about... (full context)
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...about the Bengali textile industry at the time of British imperial rule. He mentions to Nazneen that the English often made a habit of chopping off the fingers of Bengali weavers.... (full context)
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...he had, but Chanu doesn’t hear her. He is trying to explain why he and Nazneen plan to move home to Dhaka. He sends Shahana to bed, thinking that his daughter... (full context)
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Nazneen can’t sleep, so she gets up to wash the girls’ clothes in the sink. She... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Chanu tells Nazneen that he found her on the kitchen floor, eyes unblinking, vomit at the corners of... (full context)
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The girls are on break from school and the apartment is a mess. Nazneen does her best not to tidy it, and for a moment her lack of activity... (full context)
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In Hasina’s next letter, dated July, she thanks Nazneen for her money and says she hopes she won’t be mad, but she took it... (full context)
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Nazneen and her family are home, cleaning house together. Chanu seems to have stopped going to... (full context)
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It is August and hot and Nazneen is looking across the estate at her old apartment, where plants bloom in the windows.... (full context)
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There is a knock at the door and Nazneen knows it is Karim. He comes in with a bale of jeans over one shoulder.... (full context)
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...kindnesses and vows, all of them tainted with his stutter and the idiocy of youth. Nazneen gets up to wash and sees, when he is settled on the couch with his... (full context)
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Nazneen suggests they plan another march and make it a celebration. That way more people will... (full context)
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Sometime later, Nazneen stamps around, testing the ground beneath her feet. She finds that it is solid. Shahana... (full context)
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...a London School of Economics study that suggests Bangladesh is the happiest country on earth, Nazneen speaks up again. She tells him she does not believe it. Chanu is again shocked.... (full context)
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Everyone is talking about the Bengal Tigers’ festival, according to Hanufa, who, when Nazneen comes to visit, hands her tub after tub of leftover food. Nazneen is preoccupied with... (full context)
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Nazneen returns home from her visit with Hanufa to find Razia standing in front of her... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Nazneen is with Razia and Shefali in their apartment. The place is bare, stripped clean except... (full context)
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Razia and Nazneen are in Dr. Azad’s office. Razia wants his help getting Tariq off drugs. Dr. Azad... (full context)
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Nazneen, the girls, and Chanu are at home. Everyone is preparing for the festival. The girls... (full context)
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Nazneen slips into a depression. She stays in bed longer and longer. Now after Karim leaves,... (full context)
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Mrs. Islam comes for her money. Nazneen gives it to her, realizing that everything she has saved for Hasina is now going... (full context)
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The terror attacks of September 11 play out on the screen. Chanu and Nazneen watch it unfold in horror. Chanu says this is the beginning of the madness. Nazneen... (full context)
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Everyone watches the coverage together, including Shahana and Bibi. Nazneen feels as if they have all survived something together as a family. Later, after she... (full context)
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...at the kitchen table and asks in confusion where it is all going. He tells Nazneen to ask Karim for a fifty percent raise. Later, while Nazneen brushes her hair, they... (full context)
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...completely calm. He yawns and tells Chanu that he is looking up an Islamic website. Nazneen digs her nails into her flesh, thinking she’ll cry out and break the room in... (full context)
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The festival everyone had been looking forward to is cancelled. Karim tells Nazneen that the events of September 11 convinced them that now was not the time to... (full context)
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...style. He trades the jeans and gym shoes for Panjabi pajama and a skull cap. Nazneen senses he doesn’t want to discuss his new look, so she keeps her thoughts to... (full context)
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Nazneen is trying to think how she would describe Karim to Hasina in a letter. Karim... (full context)
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...would have left their Qur’ans in a taxi cab as the reports suggest. He tells Nazneen to consider who benefits from the attack. When they can answer that question, they can... (full context)
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Nazneen vows to tell Karim he can’t pray in her apartment anymore. It is wrong and... (full context)
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Nazneen tells Karim that Chanu is making plans to move the family home to Dhaka. He... (full context)
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The family has stopped eating together. Chanu has no appetite, so Nazneen lets the girls eat hamburgers and baked beans and whatever they want. When Nazneen cooks... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...Tower Hamlets, can get the story straight. His name and character changes with each telling. Nazneen and Shahana stand outside a grocery store, listening to people gossip. Nazma seems intent, especially... (full context)
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Nazneen and Razia are walking home from the grocery store, and they see a funeral procession... (full context)
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One evening, the girls and Nazneen are alone in the apartment. Chanu is working. Shahana is saying she doesn’t want to... (full context)
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Finished with her story, Nazneen leads the girls to the bathroom to brush their teeth. There, she thinks of a... (full context)
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Rupban eventually got better, and even though Nazneen overheard the servant boy bragging that he’d humiliated the holy man on purpose, she insisted... (full context)
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Nazneen sees little of Karim at the moment. He is busy with Bengal Tiger activities and... (full context)
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Later, though, Nazneen is left with only the ghost of her determination. She vacillates back and forth, torn... (full context)
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...is always talking about Islamic terrorists, but never Catholic terrorists or Jewish terrorists, he says. Nazneen wants to talk to him, but she doesn’t know what to say. He’s so angry... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Much to Nazneen’s surprise, Chanu announces that he will be attending the next Bengal Tigers meeting. He tells... (full context)
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The meeting hall is half full. Factions have formed. Nazneen and Chanu sit with a group of young men on the left side of the... (full context)
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Nazneen watches Chanu out of the corner of her eye. His head is bent, and he... (full context)
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Nazneen runs into Mrs. Islam in the butcher shop. The smell of meat is so thick... (full context)
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When Chanu comes home that night, Nazneen confronts him with Mrs. Islam’s accusation, and asks him if it is true. He begs... (full context)
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Chanu asks Nazneen to come with him and see the plane tickets. They are for five days later.... (full context)
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Later Nazneen is in Razia’s apartment, visiting with her friend. She has three days before she is... (full context)
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Nazneen and Razia move to her kitchen. Razia asks Nazneen about Karim. Nazneen tells her that... (full context)
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...to escape. All goes smoothly, and when he is about to leave, he stands with Nazneen for a moment, showing her one of his snow globes. His wife bought it for... (full context)
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Nazneen dreams of being home in Gouripur with Rupban, who is braiding her hair and telling... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Nazneen has another letter from Hasina. In it, Hasina writes of having an unquiet mind. She... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Nazneen holds Hasina’s letter in her hand. It is like a butterfly, whose fragile wings have... (full context)
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...Islam’s sons begin to break things. They shatter the glass showcase. They threaten to break Nazneen’s arms. She invites them to go ahead. Mrs. Islam is horrified that Nazneen would accuse... (full context)
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...life, Mrs. Islam is shocked. She gives in, and one of her sons mumbles that Nazneen and Chanu already paid too much anyway. Mrs. Islam begins beating him with her bag,... (full context)
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Nazneen is taking the Tube to see Karim. She’d called him earlier, telling him that she... (full context)
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Nazneen tells Karim that Chanu is leaving for Bangladesh tomorrow, and that she and the girls... (full context)
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Afterward Nazneen goes for a walk around the estate and runs into Dr. Azad, who has just... (full context)
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The day of departure has arrived. Nazneen drifts around the apartment, her eyes roving over the boxes and furniture labeled either to... (full context)
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Chanu leaves to run a few last-minute errands, and Nazneen looks out the window at the Bengal Tiger march playing out on the estate grounds.... (full context)
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...the family to a bungalow in Gushan with a guest house. He leaves again and Nazneen goes to bed. Bibi wakes her to tell her that Shahana has run away. (full context)
Chapter 21
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Bibi tells Nazneen of Shahana’s plan. She and her friend, Nishi, were going to meet at the Shalimar... (full context)
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Nazneen takes advantage of the policeman’s momentary inattention to jump across the police tape and sneak... (full context)
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Nazneen sees the Questioner in the middle of the street with a bullhorn. He is trying... (full context)
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...Chanu hurries around the apartment, using endless talk as a way to delay the inevitable. Nazneen can sense that he knows she is not going with him. He talks of the... (full context)
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...that there’s been a change of plans: he will go to Dhaka and they and Nazneen will come later. The girls are confused. They ask him who will cook for him,... (full context)
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...is March 2002 now, and Razia has built a small sewing business for herself and Nazneen. Razia approached the Brick Lane sari shop, Fashion Fusion, and suggested she and Nazneen begin... (full context)
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Nazneen is doing some shopping before going home. She thinks about how grateful she is for... (full context)
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Nazneen is back home. She thinks about what she will do with the money Razia pays... (full context)
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Nazneen hangs up the phone. She is trying to write something but it’s not working. The... (full context)
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In another call, Chanu tells Nazneen that Hasina has vanished. She has run off with the cook, and her employers are... (full context)
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Razia and the girls are taking Nazneen somewhere as a surprise. On the bus, Nazneen tries to guess where they’re going, but... (full context)
Chapter 1
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Rupban, seven months pregnant with her daughter, Nazneen, goes into labor while plucking a chicken to feed to her husband and his cousins.... (full context)
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...and one human/lizard hybrid that, directly after birth, was buried deep in a forest), declares Nazneen dead. Soon, though, the baby begins to cry and wave her arms. It becomes clear... (full context)
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...Hamid shrugs and leaves again. Mumtaz comes in with food for Rupban, now convinced that Nazneen, who refuses to eat, is fated to starve to death. Mumtaz is dismissive of such... (full context)
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...village comes to visit the baby. Banesa suggests that Rupban try finding a goat for Nazneen to suckle. Rupban waits, helpless, wishing fate would make up its mind one way or... (full context)
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Nazneen grows into a wide-faced, watchful girl, in awe of her mother’s patience and grateful to... (full context)
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As submissive as her sister is rebellious, Nazneen agrees to an arranged marriage with Chanu, a much older man who lives in London.... (full context)
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...Pakistan to the Tower Hamlets housing project in London. The year is now 1985, and Nazneen has been living in London with her husband, Chanu, for six months. Her days are... (full context)
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On this particular day, Nazneen is preparing a lamb curry dinner for Chanu and his physician, Dr. Azad. The dinner... (full context)
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Nazneen likewise takes a great deal of satisfaction in her apartment’s fine furnishings. Even though Hamid... (full context)
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Nazneen wakes and it is four o’clock in the afternoon. She hurriedly begins chopping onions, and,... (full context)
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Nazneen considers just how much she can actually blame on fate. It is not as if... (full context)
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The cut on Nazneen’s finger eventually stops bleeding, but she finds herself wondering how long it would take her... (full context)
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Nazneen takes a shoebox from the wardrobe and begins rereading a letter from Hasina, who writes... (full context)
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Nazneen goes to answer a knock at the door. Mrs. Islam and Razia Iqbal are there,... (full context)
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Nazneen cannot imagine Jorina’s predicament. She serves more tea, asking Razia about her children and Mrs.... (full context)