Monica Ali enjoyed considerable success with her debut, Brick Lane, which rode high on the current interest in discovering more about the private life of recent British immigrants, specifically those from Bangladesh. Publishers looking for the next Zadie Smith hyped it to the skies, and many found the story of Nazneen – brought to live in Tower Hamlets as the dependent wife of a fat, ugly man, from whom she eventually escapes in a torrid love affair – to be, in the words of one critic, ‘written with a wisdom and skill that few authors attain in a lifetime’.
For her second novel, Monica Ali has chosen a very different setting and cast, for Alentejo Blue is about the lives of people living around the Portuguese village of Mamarrosa. This may seem a smart move for an author who is clearly interested in describing alienation and integration. Portugal, too,