Girls of Riyadh

Rajaa Alsanea, Author, Rajaa Alsanea, Translator, Marilyn Booth, Translator , trans. from the Arabic by Rajaa Alsanea and Marilyn Booth. Penguin Press $24.95 (286p) ISBN 978-1-59420-121-9

F our upper-class Saudi Arabian women negotiate the clash between tradition and the encroaching West in this debut novel by 25-year-old Saudi Alsanea. Though timid by American chick lit standards, it was banned in Saudi Arabia for its scandalous portrayal of secular life. Framed as a series of e-mails sent to the e-subscribers of an Internet group, the story follows an unnamed narrator who recounts the misadventures of her best friends, Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem—all fashionable, educated, wealthy 20-somethings looking for true love. Their world is dominated by prayer, family loyalty and physical modesty, but the voracious consumption of luxury goods (designer name dropping is muted but present) and yearnings for female empowerment are also part of the package. Lines like “the talk was as soft as the granules in my daily facial soap” or “Sadeem was feeling so sad that her chest was constricted in sorrow” appear with woeful frequency, and the details about the roles of technology, beauty and Western pop culture in the lives of contemporary Saudi women aren't revelatory. Readers looking for quality Arabic fiction have much better options. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-101-20226-5
Compact Disc - 9 pages - 978-0-14-314214-0
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-0-14-311347-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4295-3736-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 320 pages - 978-1-4295-3737-7
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