January 5, 2009

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:54 am by suebe2


Girls of Riyadh

by Rajaa Alsanea

Penguin Audio

One day before Christmas, I found myself in the audio section of our local library branch.  With several pieces of handwork to finish, I was almost out of audio books and had nothing on request.   Books with international setting always catch my attention so I picked this up.

The author, Rajaa Alsanea, grew up in Riyadh, the youngest of two daughters.   She has created a novel that details the lives of four young women from the upper class of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.   This world of women had previously been unknown to the outside world.  

Having heard about Saudi Arabia and the closely guarded lives of its women only threw the news, this book fascinated me.  First of all, I was impressed by the freedoms these women seized for themselves.   In truth, the women didn’t seem significantly less free than the men.  Before you object to that statement — read or listen to the book.  Mothers have a great deal of influence over who their sons marry.   Both men and women face sometimes very strict dress codes.   Secondly, I was impressed by how the struggles of these women to be themselves, fighting the expectations of others, mirrored what I see my own nieces going through. 

This novel was originally published in Arabic.  When it feels like the author is delivering a lecture on Saudi clothing, food or something similar, she is.  These bits were added to help U.S. readers with elements of Saudi culture they would not know.

An adult book, this would be suitable for teen readers but would most likely interest women much more than men.   I would also advise listening to the book if possible to get a feel for the proper names.


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