At the age of eighteen, Nazneen is married off to a man twenty years her elder and moves from a small Bangladeshi village to London. She has a hard time getting used to her new life, but tries to settle for an existence as a traditional wife and mother.
Frustrated by his inability to lead a successful and 'English' life, Nazneen's husband, Chanu, tries to keep Nazneen indoors. To him, she is a part of his life he can control and an emblem of Bangladeshi culture.
Nazneen tries to adapt to her situation, to obey her husband and be content, but a number of events in her life cause her to reflect upon her life and take more and more control of it. The first person to get Nazneen thinking is her neighbor Razia, who is also Bangladeshi but much less traditional: she smokes, lets her children wear English clothes and tries to cook English food. A second important influence on Nazneen are her two daughters, who inevitably grow up to be very English and are very critical of their parents' lifestyle. Thirdly, she meets Karim, a young man from the neighborhood who is also a political / religious activist and takes her to political meetings.
Parallel to Nazneen 's life story is Hasina's. Hasina is Nazneen's sister; her story unfolds through letters she sends to Nazneen. Hasina chose not to obey her parents and marry the man they picked for her. She eloped with someone she was in love with, but ends up even more miserable than Nazneen. As her lover leaves her, she tries to fend for herself working in factories and even prostituting herself.
As Chanu, Nazneen's husband, feels that he is losing control over his wife and daughters, he decides that London life has a bas influence on their values and that the only way to save his family is to take them back to Bangladesh. This finally causes Nazneen to stand up against her husband for the first time.
This report prepared by L. Peeters