Girls of Riyadh

Girls of Riyadh

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Overview

When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143113478
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 449,740
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rajaa Alsanea is the author of the novel Girls of Riyadh, which was long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award. She grew up in Saudi Arabia as one of six siblings in a family of doctors and dentists. Alsanea received her bachelor’s degree in endodontics from King Saud University in 2005.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Through a series of emails on a Yahoo subscription list, an unnamed narrator relates the adventures of her four young friends as they confront the challenges of adult life in the privileged society of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While the urbane clique shares fashion tips, the occasional sip of champagne, and a dream of true love, each of the girls has her own individual story: Gamrah has moved to the United States with her new husband in a union their families have arranged. Lonely and confined to a Chicago apartment, she wonders if she made the right choice. Her best friend, the romantic business student Sadeem, is fixed up with Waleed, a handsome civil servant from a prominent lineage, and they are soon caught up in a romantic whirlwind that might be a bit too intoxicating for their own good. Michelle, the half-American member of the group, is at the mall when she meets her own seemingly perfect paramour—the one man who can truly understand her Western values—but who, unfortunately, comes from a less tolerant family. Rebellious, headstrong medical student Lamees finds herself attracted to the brother of a Shiite classmate, even though the relationship may jeopardize her friendships and her freedom.

What Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle, and Lamees soon learn is that falling in love might be easy, but finding lasting romance in Riyadh is a much more difficult proposition. As sophisticated as they are, they, like all Saudi women, must contend with their culture's conflicting attitudes about sexuality and its deeply rooted class and religious prejudices—social pressures that can doom even the most auspicious-seeming match. Nothing seems to turn out exactly as they planned, but as the girls of Riyadh struggle to maintain their moral integrity in a modern world, they learn to find happiness on their own terms.

Originally published in Arabic in Lebanon in 2005 and now translated into English for the first time, Alsanea's debut novel exposes the private world of Saudi Arabia's most cloistered citizens to uncover young women who ultimately share the same hopes and dreams as their Western counterparts. Her honest portrayal of controversial subject matter made Alsanea a literary sensation and a public enemy, sparking fierce debate in the media and online discussion groups. Addictively readable yet deeply political, Girls of Riyadh has been called the first modern Arab novel and its comic but poignant accounts of contemporary Saudi life make it an instant classic.


ABOUT RAJAA ALSANEA

Rajaa Alsanea grew up in Riyadh, the younger of two daughters in a family of doctors and dentists. She is currently living in Chicago, where she is pursuing a degree in endodontics. She intends to return to Saudi Arabia after obtaining her degree. She is twenty-five years old.


A CONVERSATION WITH RAJAA ALSANEA

Q. You have structured Girls of Riyadh as a modern epistolary novel, a series of emails from an unidentified narrator. What inspired you to tell the story in this manner?

I used Internet as a vehicle in my novel to portray the impact of modern communication tools on the Saudi society in the past ten years. In the conservative Saudi society, the Internet, cell phones, and Bluetooth can be as important, if not more crucial, than face-to-face communication. The narrator in Girls of Riyadh is a well enlightened twenty-first century young woman who lives in Saudi. She is smart, motivated, and knows exactly what she and her friends are missing, but yet not strong enough to face the whole society by exposing her true identity.

Q. The narrator responds to hate mail and protests from readers that find her subject matter offensive. It's almost as if you were predicting the response to your book. Could you have anticipated the amount of attention the book has received?

When I wrote the story I didn't want the fear of being judged or criticized to affect the plot. Therefore, I was very involved and occupied by the writing process. What took over was the style or the general theme, how characters would react to each other and where the story should go. I knew that if one had sent such emails in real life that would be the predictable response of the Saudi society. However, I did not anticipate that my book would spread as fast as mass emails would. I had my first interview with a Saudi newspaper just the day after my book was released in Lebanon. It seemed like my book was something that Saudis have been longing for, but were never ready to put into action.

Q. In its original form, the novel was written in a mixture of classical and modern Arabic dialects, but these subtleties are lost in the English version. What, if anything, would an English-speaking reader miss in this translation?

At first I was hesitant to translate my book to any other language because of the importance of the different dialects, levels, techniques used in it. But as a girl who grew up reading translated novels from all around the world I thought I owe it to book lovers everywhere to translate my book. Arabic is a very literary language and translating Arabic books to other languages is usually less successful than translating books written in other languages into Arabic. The fact that the majority of Arab critics considered the way I have written my book a breakthrough in Arabic literature made me believe that even if parts of the book were lost in translation, it will still be good enough in other languages. I am glad I made that decision because there aren't many Arabic novels translated to other languages and this is part of why people know so little about us.

Q. The scene where Lamees, Michelle, Gamrah, and Sadeem dress in abayas and drive around the city in a rented car seems especially bold. Is this a common practice for young Saudi women looking to get around the laws that prohibit them from driving?

To some extent; when there are rules there are ways to get around them. And in Saudi there are numerous laws, both religious and social. The majority of Saudis adhere to religious laws like praying, fasting, not drinking, etc. But when it comes to social laws like females not driving or men and women not falling in innocent love, the young generation is starting to question and refuse such time honored laws.

Q. What are some of your literary influences? How do you classify Girls of Riyadh in terms of genre?

I am happy that I created my own genre with this book and hope to keep it this way for the coming books. I grew up reading Hemingway, Mum, and Hugo. My favorite author is Ghazi Al-Gusaibi, author of the Freedom Flat and many other books that are not in English yet, unfortunately.

Q. This book offers a vivid portrait of modern life in Saudi Arabia, one that Westerners don't often get. Now that the book is in translation, what are you hoping to communicate to Western audiences? Are there any myths or misconceptions you are trying to dispel?

We are victims of stereotyping. There is an Arabic proverb that says, “One is the enemy of what he does not know.” I did not write the book for Western readers. This is why it is very authentic and genuine even after translation. My Western audiences will look at Saudi through a keyhole and they will be able to connect with those who live at a totally different society, and yet have the same dreams, emotions, and goals.

Q. Two of your characters, Sadeem and Michelle, find themselves caught between cultures, unable to feel entirely at home either in Riyadh or in Europe or the States. Now that you have lived in America, what has been your own experience? Is there always a sense of losing touch with home or has the exposure to Western culture strengthened your Saudi identity?

I think that living within any culture makes you scrutinize its positive and negative aspects. Growing up in Saudi I was fascinated by what I see of the American society on TV and living here in the U.S. made me appreciate my homeland more. Both societies have taught me a lot and just like the Girls of Riyadh I am trying to find my own terms and create my own environment for myself; an environment that treasures religion and family and rejects unnecessary social or racial traditions.

Q. Your narrator says that “Our Saudi society resembles a fruit cocktail of social classes in which no class mixes with another unless absolutely necessary and even then only with the help of a blender!” Indeed, some of your characters find their chances at love thwarted by class divisions. In your experience, are class mores more restrictive than gender roles in Saudi Arabia?

Class is more restrictive than gender especially nowadays. Maybe fifty years ago men were privileged much more than women and so they were not under any sort of restrictions. Now, equality between genders is happening slowly, and both are victims of the social restrictions of class, tribe, and religious views.

Q. In the novel the Valentine's Day holiday is officially prohibited but celebrated on the sly, Gamrah covertly gets a rhinoplasty, and Lamees gets caught smuggling American videotapes in school—all infractions that would seem tame to a Western audience but which, it could be argued, have the potential to erode traditional Saudi culture. How do you distinguish cultural exchange from destructive influence?

Personally, I would say that we need to allow cultural exchange to freely express before we are able to decide what is destructive and what is beneficial. Censorship is a myth and it does not protect the society from outer governments. We realized now as Saudis that there are encouraging cultural exchange through scholarships to other countries, media, and the Internet. The society is opening up to other cultures and learning to respect different views and King Abdullah plays a big role in that.

Q. All of your characters are intent on finding “true love.” How has does this idea clash with the ideals of their society? Do you think there's a way the two things can ever be reconciled?

True love is hard to find everywhere. On top of that, many of the true love stories cannot survive under social pressure. There is no ideal situation in love and unless the society and families are less idealistic, love will not be able to thrive easily in our land. When Saudi was only deserts and farms, people were falling in love and living a much easier life than we are nowadays. It is surprising how idealism can not just restrict us from moving forward, but can pull us backwards too.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Gamrah's mother believes that “woman is to man as butter is to sun.” Do all the men in this novel have a corrupting influence on the women who love them?
     
  • In what ways are Michelle, Gamrah, Lamees, and Sadeem restricted by tradition and how do they work around it?
     
  • This story of young women looking for love has been compared to books like Bridget Jones's Diary and Sex and the City. In what ways does Girls of Riyadh's geographic and social context set it apart from its Western counterparts?
     
  • When she discovers her husband's secrets, Gamrah desperately attempts to hold her marriage together. Do you think she is a victim of circumstance or is she guilty of dishonesty in her own right?
  • What role does the widow Um Nuwayyir play for the girls? Is she a positive or negative model for them?
     
  • What are Michelle, Sadeem, Gamrah, and Lamees's individual relationships to religion and religious law? How do they differ?
     
  • After a couple of romantic disappointments, Michelle realizes she can never replace her true love with another man. Do you agree with this conclusion and do you view her ending as a happy one?
  • Does this novel have a moral point of view and if so, what is it?
     
  • During the scene where Lamees graduates from medical school, the narrator describes her joy of “having it all”: love, a career, a new baby on the way. How did Lamees manage to pull off this feat—was it skill or simply luck?
     
  • The narrator says early on that every one of her friends “lives huddled in the shadow of a man, or a wall, or a man who is a wall.” Is this true for all of the characters, and is it true even at the end of the story?

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Girls of Riyadh 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very hard for me to put down. It captured me by both the happenings in the lives of all of the girls, but even more so on the univeral thoughts about love and freedom. I appreciated the differences and similarities between my western culture and the Saudi culture. Read Snow Flower, too, for a less affluent view of a male dominated society, as well as A Thousand Splendid Suns. There is much to learn about life through many cultures from around the world. I am grateful this book was published in English.
Welshwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A brave book revealing the hypocrisy of life behind the veil and the difficulties encountered by young women in Arabia.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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. Mission accomplished.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--the 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 it seems is what it was 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.
damy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is supposedly banned in Saudi Arabia. While it's rather risque for their culture, it's pretty tame by American standards. In fact, the romantic relationships of the ladies in the story are much more like the relationships you'd see between budding teens instead of adults in the USA. The story is about the love life of 4 or 5 female friends of the Saudi upper class. One can't get a husband because she's half American and ends up becoming a movie star in Dubai. Another loses her husband because he has a mistress in America that he divorces her for. Yet another loses her fiance because she goes too far with him before they're married. Another falls in love with a Saudi she meets abroad and he tries to keep the relationship going by phone even after he marries someone chosen for him by his family. It was an interesting read, but my Saudi friend who read the book swears that there's no way any of that has ever happened to a Saudi girl and that it's all completely fiction. Perhaps we'll never know.
bethmal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book a very fascinating tale of 4 young girls lives. I went to college with a lot of girls from the middle east and it was neat to have an inside look at thrie social lives and how they differed from typical american lives.
Pompeia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Girls of Riyadh tells the story of four friends living in Saudi Arabia. Their story is told in the form of email messages and each message contains an introductory part by the fictional email sender. The book has been described as an Arabian version of Sex and the City, but I think it was more like a traditional romance novel in an Arabian setting.The book is said to be very controversial in Saudi Arabia, but for a non-muslim reader this is a collection of four not-so-original love stories. This is not to say that the book is not good - I enjoy reading about cultures that I don't know so much about. However, I was a bit surprised about how well this book fits into the genre of chick lit - without the cultural flavor, this book could have been any of the hundreds that gets published each year.I was going to give the book four stars, but decided to reduce that to 3 1/2 because of the introductory parts in each email I mentioned earlier - somehow, I didn't like the "voice" in those messages at all. She seemed a bit narcissistic and overly smug about how brilliant and popular her stories are. Another detracting factor is that the girls all belong to Saudi elite - they are privileged and pampered. It would have been more interesting to read a story about women with other worries than just their love lives. However, I guess the author can't be faulted for writing about what she knows - perhaps someone else will write the book that I'd really like to read, a bit more serious and with less superficial characters.In summary, a good, interesting book about women in Islamic culture, but still very light reading, could even be described as fluff.
sunshine608 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very intersting view point, although it left me with lots of questions, I enjoyed the story very much. Chick-lit from the Middle East/Saudi Arabia. Great story about Friendship and love.
BritnaeP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One good book I read this summer was called Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea. I had read about it in a couple of magazines and I thought it looked interesting, so I grabbed it the first time I saw it in a bookstore. What attracted be to it, besides the sparkly cover, was that the subject was women in Saudi Arabia, something I had never read or heard much about.The book follows the lives of four young Saudi women as they try to find love, as told through the emails of an unidentified friend. The book was very well written. It was mostly about dating and marriage and how the women only really wanted true love, but sometimes had to settle for less. It showed how the customs for dating and everything are so much different than in America, and they can be both good and bad, and that the confusing mixture of old traditions and new technology can make life difficult in Saudi Arabia. I really liked the book because it showed what life is really like for women in Saudi Arabia, without being judgmental or trying to make a political statement. Nonetheless, after reading it I decided that I probably would not be very happy living in Saudi Arabia.Girls of Riyadh could be a little bit difficult to follow, for many reasons. It was originally written in Arabic, so it was translated, and a lot of the references to books or pop culture made in the original text had to be explained in the English version. There were a lot of footnotes. It was also a little hard to follow because I kept getting all of the foreign-sounding names mixed up, and simply because of the difference in the cultures. It was a fun book to read, and it was easy to relate to all the characters because they seem so real and different from each other, just like a real group of friends. There is the girl who is always speaking out against Saudi society, the girl who is a hopeless romantic, the girl who is more interested in her studies than in anything, the girl who is usually in a grumpy mood¿I liked them all! The narrator is very funny too. I do wish that at the end they would have told who it was though, because it was a secret all through the book and it kept hinting that you would find out who it was at the end of the book, but you never do.Girls of Riyadh was a very good book. It was entertaining, insightful, and funny. There were so many emotions, like joy, heartbreak, confusion, loneliness, and celebration, that reading it was like being on a roller coaster. The characters were great, and it was very beautifully and creatively written. If Rajaa Alsanea ever writes another book in English, I will be sure to pick it up because her first book was wonderful.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I purchased Girls of Riyadh expecting chick lit, and in a way I was right. Like a lot of Western books for women, this Saudi Arabian novel tells the story of a group of young women looking for love and navigating their sometimes tumultuous female friendships. But while Bridget Jones characters proliferate across every supermarket stand in America, this novel is a one-of-a-kind in its native Saudi Arabia, where frank depiction of the lives of women is so provocative that the book is banned. Each of the characters has freedoms that Western women might not expect, like watching forbidden video tapes, dating, and in one case, even having premarital sex. But for these girls, every step against tradition is an act of bravery and getting caught might mean giving up the chance for marriage, family and a happy life.Although the book deals with some heavy subject matter, the breezy, anonymous narrator makes it fun to read. I appreciated that the book gives Islam the complex treatment it deserves. The girls' varying attitudes ensure a balanced perspective: half-American Michelle rejects her Saudi side entirely, while moderate Lamees and Sadeem try to balance the demands of their culture with their own emotional needs. Gamrah, the meekest and most conservative of the characters, accepts unhappiness as the lot of women while hoping for a good marriage. Even though many of the characters feel embittered by the men who mistreat them, the book recognizes that they too are victims of rigid families who require them to sacrifice true love for tradition.This isn't a perfect book. The original Arabic edition combines the classical, literary form of the language with teenage slang that reveals the characters' interests and economic backgrounds. In English, however, this results in a jarring mixture of styles. The simple, declatory prose doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. But, even though I'm a picky reader, I found that my interest girls' lives and culture outweighed any complaints about the style. I doubt this book will blow anyone away, but most readers will probably find it interesting.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gamrah, Sadeem, Lamees, and Michelle are young, well-off, educated Saudi women. Having completed secondary education, they are looking ahead -- some to university, and all to marriage. Their story is told by an anonymous friend, via weekly e-mails sent to a far-reaching distribution list. The messages create a sensation in Saudi Arabian society, by revealing the "real life" feelings, hopes, and aspirations of these women. The weekly messages also cast Saudi men in a fairly negative light: fathers and uncles are controlling, making decisions about the women's lives without consultation. Young male prospects generally see women as fit for one thing only. And yet, everyone in this story is constrained by the conservative culture. Even the philandering young men are bound by tradition and family expectations concerning marriage. No one is free to choose a life partner based on love alone, even though they all dream of this possibility.While this book is a light read, and might be billed by some as "chick lit," it really captured my attention. Using "scandalous" e-mails to convey the story reminded me of 19th-century serializations, with a high-tech twist. This is one of the few books I've read about contemporary Muslim culture where I felt I was truly inside women's heads. Recommended.
mooknits on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just OK really - an interesting insight into the world of Saudi women, but not as much as would have thought. I thought it was going to be really intriguing but sadly no - could have been so much better.
goldiebear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty much fluff, even though I admit it kept me entertained. It was pretty much chick-lit about Saudi women. On the back it says, "Imagine Sex and the City if the city in question were Riyadh," and that is exactly what this book was. I admit, I am a fan of Sex and the City, so I could even picture of which of the four women in the book compared to the characters in Sex in the City. Again, not much too this book -- but it kept me entertained until the end.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is billed on the cover as "Imagine Sex And The City, if the city in question were Riyadh", and that's a pretty good description. It's the intertwining tales of four young women, with different personalities and interests, told in a series of emails by one of their friends... or perhaps one of the quartet herself, anonymously. Sadly, it's also like SATC and much chick-lit in its love for designer labels and conspicuous consumption. One of the young women makes a new friend because "the two had several classes together and each noticed the other's good looks and perfect American accent right away". It's also not particularly well-written.In the end, though, it is quite interesting to see how Saudi cultural and religious values impact on the lives of even the most wealthy and Westernised women - including the pressure they feel even when they are outside the kingdom. And the many different ways the author finds them to get to know men - whether it's a bold character who comes up and suggests they pretend to be related so they can stroll round a shopping mall together, someone met through an internet chatroom, or a work colleague.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great read ¿ interesting story, simply but effectively told, and an education along the way. There aren¿t many books like this that come out of Saudi Arabia and make it to the Western market. I suspected there was some tweaking of the content to make it easier for a Western audience to understand ¿ many footnotes explaining unfamiliar terminology and names of people famous in the Arab world, and time taken to explain cultural traditions along the way. I am so glad this book was published, because I am sure that through fiction it is possible to gain an understanding of unfamiliar cultures whereas ignorance can lead to mistrust and fear.The story takes the form of a series of emails supposedly sent to the members of an internet chatroom, detailing the lives of four young women in Riyadh. The identity of the emailer is a mystery, but enables the author to make her own comments on the comings and goings of her protagonists, quote scripture etc which adds a further dimension to the novel. The four main characters are seen to be normal, modern young women ¿ they watch Sex and the City, they use the internet and mobile phones, they talk endlessly about their boyfriends, they are educated and intelligent. On the other hand they live in a society dominated by men and the strict observance of Islam, and do not have complete freedom in choosing a partner.There are an astonishing number of ill-fated romances here, and an illustration of the way in which semi-arranged marriages do not always lead to wedded bliss. Some quite heartbreaking scenarios throughout the book.It would be easy to criticise this society for its treatment of women. Certainly the reader feels their pain. But on the other hand they are not seen to be waiting for someone to `rescue¿ them from their culture ¿ they want to hang on to its core values. I suspect this book will one I¿ll think hard over long after reading it.
sar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this is agreat book. its writen so good. its intresting and really get you in the life of those 4 girls....in a way you can call it sex and the city in the arab world.its clever, its intresting, and its real amd honest
robinhood26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rajaa Alsanea has taken quite a normal subject and made it a hot topic. How? Simply, the private lives of Saudi Arabian girls/women are not the subject of discussion. That is not only the case in the rest of the world, but in Saudi Arabia itself, which is trying very hard to deny the natural human condition exemplified by the natural curiosity of boys and girls for each other.And despite the fact that the writing style (even given consideration for its being a translation from the Arabic) is not particularly exceptional, the other-worldliness of the story itself is absorbing for the reader. I came away convinced that the Saudi Arabian model can¿t really last in the modern world. If nothing else, young people are simply too curious about the other sex. Given modern technologies, it is becoming more and more difficult to deny them that access, despite keeping them physically separate.In the Saudi Arabia of today, the result is rather sad. Girls who grow up exposed to the modern, international world grow up with a dreamy and unrealistic vision of what a relationship should and can be. A simplified view of the issue: these girls grow up to be twentysomethings whose view of a successful relationship is an overinflated version of the infatuation that most twelve- to thirteen-year-olds experience. The difference is that in the rest of the world, those girls experience the disappointment of unrequited love; misunderstandings; differing expectations; and their own personal development, in which they see the other person not as an answer to all their needs and problems, but as a partner who can learn and grow with them as they grow old together.The boys have the same problem, of course. Only, in their case, once they realise (also rather late) that their partner is not the answer to all their needs, they have more options at hand. After all, they run Saudi Arabia, and finding other women, either on a temporary or permanent basis, is a very acceptable solution.Needless to say, the proportion of disappointed marriages must be awesome.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was engaging, honest, and very well crafted... and the translator did an excellent job on his/her end. This was Chick Lit done Saudi-style, based off real-life friendships of the author. The book was initially written as a series of emails to a Yahoo group, and it was only by sheer luck (and probably due to the email groups' massive popularity that grew with every installment) that it got picked up and turned into a book. The author admits that some of her friends ended up turning on her and she hasn't spoken to them since, while others thought having Alsanea write their stories down was a wonderful idea and supported her through the process. It was a great eye-opener to get behind the scenes of the lives of Saudi women... it's really not a perspective you can get from anyone BUT somebody from the inside, and I applaud Alsanea for taking the risk to tell her story and allow us to catch a glimpse of the limits and restrictions Saudi women have to live with every day of their lives.
LyzzyBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Acquired via BookCrossing 11 Dec 2009 - BCBirmingham Secret Santa giftA nameless Saudi woman starts sending out a weekly email highlighting the doings of a group of female friends from the "velvet" - the highest - level of society. Although they come from good families with plenty of money, opportunities for travel etc, their lives are full of the same worries as other women of their age - studying, how to find love, friendship - and also of the constraints of their society. We see them try to pick a path between personal fulfillment and matching their families' and society's expectations; I was aware of quite a lot of the issues they face such as the terrible shame of divorce, etc, but I think the attractive chick-lit cover might well bring new readers who would learn quite a lot. The women are feisty and see their men clearly in the end, and there are no sugary-sweet happy endings or silly coincidences. A really good read, a celebration of friendship, and some important issues are highlighted.I'll be offering this on a bookring soon.
RJGM More than 1 year ago
Man... I wish I could read Arabic. The author's note at the front mentioned that the original Arabic version mixed various dialects of the language, which didn't translate very easily into English; I think my main complaint about the book would be solved if a) it translated better or b) I read the original. I was very interested in this book, since I know very little about Saudi Arabia in general, and even less about the life of the average young woman there. I loved the email-list format (even if I found it hard to believe at times) and I often found myself more interested in the sender of the emails than the actual girls she was writing about. I also liked how each character seemed to represent a different position/worldview for young girls in Saudi Arabia, which gave a broader view of the culture without turning the book into a tome. AND ALL OF THE MEN WERE TERRIBLE (which was kind of hilarious, in a #relatable way). My main complaint, as hinted at in my first lines: Even though all the girls had different points of view, they all kind of sounded the same. At first, I struggled to keep them all straight because they didn't really have unique voices. They did become distinct characters as they grew apart and experienced the world differently, but they all just sounded like... they were written by the same author. Which they were. But still. Not one of my favorite book club books so far, but not one of my least favorite. Interesting - good - but not great. #ReadingSaudiArabia
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i am 18 years old and this book is amazing! its the kind of book you can read 3 times and still get the chills! I honestly carry this book with me everywhere I go!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome. I loved the writing style and the characters were interesting and had very different personalities. And some parts are funny.
autiemautie More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Read it on a Nook, and I couldn't put it down. Definitely worth reading. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. I loved the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago