Seductive Slide into Despair

Elizabeth Lowry

  • Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
    Doubleday, 299 pp, £14.99, June 2006, ISBN 0 385 60486 6

Superficially, at least, it’s not remotely like Brick Lane. Does that matter? Yes and no. Following her ambitious and pacy first novel about Bangladeshis in the East End of London, Monica Ali has emphatically changed direction by setting her second book in Portugal. This will inevitably alienate some of her fans. But the change of subject should not really come as a surprise. After Brick Lane was published, Ali was careful to point out that she was unwilling to be a ‘cheerleader’. Being told off by the Greater Sylhet Welfare and Development Council for the ‘inaccuracies’ in her portrayal of the Bengali community, and having the book blithely compared to The Satanic Verses in the Guardian, must have encouraged Ali to relocate.

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