Not winning the Booker Prize didn't prevent Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal and Ian McEwan's Atonement spawning successful movies this year. Now Monica Ali's Brick Lane - shortlisted, like Scandal, for the 2003 prize - makes its own way to the big screen in a delicately handled adaptation from director Sarah Gavron. Don't expect too many surprises, though, from this low-key story of a Bangladeshi woman who learns to stand on her own two feet after years of stultifying arranged marriage.
Forced at the tender age of 17 to exchange her native village for a rundown housing estate in east London, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) stoically knuckles down to her new life as reluctant wife to Chanu (Satish Kaushik), an obese dullard with ideas as big as his corns. Rarely straying beyond her cluttered flat in Tower Hamlets, she spends her days pining for home, dodging an elderly money-lender (Lalita Ahmed) and sewing jeans for dashing market trader Karim (Christopher Simpson). In the wake of 9/11, though, the certainties on which her world is based begin to crumble, forcing her to take a stand against her overbearing husband and two rebellious daughters.
"MEASURED, SENSITIVE AND CONVENTIONAL"
Given the angry protests that scuppered plans to shoot in the real Brick Lane and the subsequent decision to nix the film's Royal Command Performance, one might expect Gavron's drama to be a far more contentious affair. Those who objected to its production, though, will find little to vex them in a measured, sensitive and ultimately rather conventional depiction of one woman's hard-won coming of age.
Brick Lane is out in the UK on 16th November 2007.