Saudi Arabia – where marriages are arranged and there are no cinemas or parties to go to, where social life consists of trying to keep girls and boys apart rather than put them together.
But as Rajaa Alsanea reveals in this absorbing novel, that’s not the whole story: determination, mobile phones and the internet have made life easier for young Saudis, and the four girls in this novel are all finding romance even though mostly it goes badly wrong. Girls of Riyadh captures the trials and tribulations of a middle-class society quite unlike our own and blows the lid off all our preconceptions of Arab life.
My verdict: The fact that we don’t know the identity of the reader heightens the scandal surrounding this book, could the author be talking from experience? This book covers everything from Religon, Western influence, sexuality, divorce and politics. I felt sorry for each ot the girls plights and that hoped that fourteen years on from its publication that things are marginally better. A beautifully written book giving an in-depth look at the clash between traditional culture and modern liberal thinking from women who are repressed and should be ideally seen and not heard. If you consider yourself repressed I urge you to read this before judging a complex culture and implore you to find your voice and have courage to speak out against injustice against you like these women even if it’s partly fictional. Fans of Malala yousafi will love this brave piece of fiction that I don’t think have challenged a society’s and cultures ideas since the publication of Anne Frank’s A diary of a young girl. It also reminded me of Sex and a city but in the Middle East and each story as colourful, complicated, vivid and blunt as it’s homeland.