“This can be described as Sex in the City in Riyadh. Chicklit with a Saudi Arabian accent. That show is even referenced in the book, about four friends, young women of the wealthy and educated "velvet class," trying to find love in contemporary Saudi Arabia. Originally written in Arabic,...”see full review » see other reviews »
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“If ever there was a book that seemed and sounded pretentious then this must be it. The book speaks of the lives of 4 young Saudi women of varyingly rich backgrounds and of their trials and tribulations while navigating a life... in and around Riyadh...
“An insight into the lives of Saudi women.”Aparna wrote this review Thursday, October 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This can be described as Sex in the City in Riyadh. Chicklit with a Saudi Arabian accent. That show is even referenced in the book, about four friends, young women of the wealthy and educated "velvet class," trying to find love in contemporary Saudi Arabia. Originally written in Arabic, the author helped translate it into English. She writes about the difficulties of adapting the story for a Western audience in an Author's Note and admits that her story isn't that of all Saudi women, but says she does "hope by the time you finish this book, you will say to yourself: Oh yes. It is a very conservative Islamic society. The women there live under male dominance. But they are full of hopes and plans and determination and dreams. And they fall deeply in and out of love just like anywhere else." In other words, they're nothing like me, yet very much like me.
I've seen this described as an epistolary novel, but doesn't really read like one. The bulk of the book is written in the common third person perspective. But each chapter begins with comments framing the story, which is supposed to be composed of emails from a mail group, seerehwenfahda.net. The unknown narrator teases her readers. Is she one of the women whose stories she will tell? She speaks of the reactions she's getting from readers--and the author seems prescient because I can see all those reactions in reviews of the book on Goodreads and LibraryThing.
The book begins and ends with a wedding. It opens with he wedding of Gamrah Al-Qusmaji and Rashid--celebrating an arranged marriage doomed from the beginning. We'll then meet Sadeem Al-Horaimli, who finds herself divorced before there's even a wedding. In the marriage contract, her husband was asked for a signature--she was asked for a thumbprint. There's the ambitious Michelle (Mashael Al-Abdulrahman) whose first love drops her because his family doesn't approve of a potential wife whose mother is American. And there's the sophisticated Lamees Jeddau, a medical student; she's arrested by the religious police for sitting in a cafe with someone of the opposite sex.
There are times reading this novel when I'm swept away by how alien Saudi culture is, a society steeped in Sharia law and that seems so repressive that I imagine only North Korea or Cuba could be worse. The way women are often treated seems so horrendous (they can't make contracts, can't legally drive a car) the only thing comparable I can think of was what it was like for a black in pre-Civil Rights Movement America. But then I find myself identifying with one or the other of the girls, and think of some of the Neanderthal things I've heard come out of the mouths of people here about women and relationships, and I can't say I feel that comfortable a distance. Gamrah is the most traditional in her values and most trapped and passive in her circumstances and Michelle by and large rejects the ways of Saudi Arabia. The other two, Sadeem and Lamees, struggle to find a way to keep what they value in their culture and yet pursue happiness. I particularly felt for Sadeem and her experiences with love and seeing past it and through it. I ended the book sorry to say goodbye to them. This wasn't the kind of book that impressed me because of the writing, but one I will never forget because of the experience of reading it, and how it made me think.
The book is banned in Saudi Arabia.”
“Fun book, disclosing unexpected sides of life in Saudi Arabia. How people in their twenties deal with one of the most conservative systems in the world. Very appealing style and characters!”Hatem wrote this review Monday, July 15, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I found this novel about four young Saudi women and their quests for love to be quite interesting. It is written in a post-modern style from the perspective of a close friend posting the stories to a Yahoo group. ”R. DeShong wrote this review Monday, March 4, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Hmm.. controversial with a capital C. Now speaking as a Saudi girl that lives in Riyadh I would say that this book captures a lot of issues teenage girls are faced with such as: dating, drinking, sex etc. I think it shows Saudi Arabia in a different light. ”Lana Banana wrote this review Sunday, November 25, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Amazing book which combines both the the plight of the saudi woman but also the unknown life of these girls with panache...!!!”Srishti wrote this review Thursday, October 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“[to complete]”Tea Cake wrote this review Tuesday, September 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Call # F San”P West wrote this review Tuesday, September 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I really liked this - read like any chick lit book, while still giving fantastic insights into Saudi Arabian culture. I wish we knew more about the mysterious narrator!”spiffykt wrote this review Thursday, August 16, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No