I really liked Monica Ali’s debut novel ‘Brick Lane’ but I was worried before I started reading this. It often happens that writers who had a popular debut novel decide to stick to the formula and produce book-club pleasing watered down versions of their debut.
Luckily, that’s not the case here. Monica Ali did not want to be locked writing endless ‘sari & curry’ family sagas. She broke free and did something very brave, that is, completely departed from her debut.
‘Azuelejo Blue’ is more of a short story collection disguised as a novel which takes place around a small village in Portugal amongst ex-pats, tourists and locals. This sort of structure is a difficult thing to pull off, and I see from reviews that it didn’t appeal to many people. Personally, I thought it was it quite well done.
Monica Ali trusts her reader enormously. She doesn’t explain anything and leaves everything for you to figure out. There is no telling here, just showing. Yes, occasionally it can be confusing but ultimately very satisfying. I would take this over any book whose author assumes I am a halfwit.
The cast is very rich and diverse, the writing is superb, and Ali is an extremely imaginative author which is one of the main characteristic I look for in a writer.
It wasn’t a perfect book, I felt that Ali should have put more oomph in it but I give her well deserved four stars and I know she has that perfect book in her. (I am not sure if it is that Diana book though, I feel that was done to please the publisher).