Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Florence of Arabia

Florence of Arabia

3.9 16
by Christopher Buckley

See All Formats & Editions

The bestselling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and Presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world–Arab-American relations–in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t


The bestselling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and Presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world–Arab-American relations–in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t delight.

Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world.

The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she’s enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced “Mutter”), the “Switzerland of the Persian Gulf.” Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows.

The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self-defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as “Friends from Hell.”

The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station’s entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that’s only the beginning.

A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley’s funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan.

Editorial Reviews

Charles Tureheart
Christopher Buckley is likely to make some people very angry with this book, but there will be no denying the elegance and, by my lights, the essential gentleness of his wit. Buckley can be offensive -- sometimes uproariously so -- but I don't detect malice, or at least not much. Whether everyone else will read him this way is another question.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
One has to admire the pluck of an author who dares satirize what may be the touchiest subject in the country today: Arab American relations. Buckley (No Way to Treat a First Lady, etc.) jumps into the sandstorm feet first with this tale of scrappy Florence Farfaletti, Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs. When a friend of Florence's who is married to Prince Bawad of Wasabia is executed, Florence proposes a plan to free the women of the Middle East. Covertly accepted by the U. S. Government, the plan involves creating a TV station in Wasabia's neighboring country, Matar, which instigates a revolution with broadcasts that, among other things, encourage women to throw off their burkas. Humor and action are in great supply, and reader Kalember (whom 40-somethings may remember as Susannah Hart from the series Thirtysomething) handles both with aplomb. The serene stability of her voice is a good foil for the story's calamitous happenings but, at the same time, her voice conveys a certain vulnerability and righteousness that makes her portrayal of Florence completely believable. As an added bonus, Kalember's delivery of the English-as-a-second-language Arab characters is both sympathetic and hilarious. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 23). (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
The first paragraph of FYI Editor Chris Buckley's new, most hilarious novel yet guarantees that he won't soon be named ambassador to Saudi Arabia or any other Arab state: "The emblem of the Royal House of Hamooj [of Wasabia]: a date palm tree, crescent moon and a scimitar, hovering over a head. Viewed close up, the head does not bear a pleased expression, doubtless owing to its having been decapitated by the above scimitar." Nor will Buckley be named our chief envoy to France: "Did not France have her own proud history of screwing things up? Look at Algeria, Vietnam, Syria, Haiti, Quebec--all still reeling from their days of French rule. Clearly, France was ready and eager to show the world that she, too, could wreak disastrous, unforeseen consequences abroad, far more efficiently and almost certainly with more flair than America." Nor will he be on the A-list for the next Secretary of State, as he gleefully flays Foggy Bottom: "They handed her a pamphlet titled ‘What American Women Should Understand When They Marry a Wasabi National.' The State Department's reflexive response to any American in extremis overseas is to hand them a pamphlet--along with a list of incompetent local lawyers--and say, ‘We told you so.'"(20 Sep 2004)
—Steve Forbes
Kirkus Reviews
Buckley (Washington Schlepped Here, 2003; No Way to Treat a First Lady, 2002, etc.) jauntily flips pies at Middle Eastern dynasties, splattering meringue on the CIA, the State Department, the French, the mullahs, and anyone else standing nearby. Who could not laugh? How this one slipped past the sensitivity censors is a mystery, but a happy mystery. Barely disguising the Royal House of Saud, its 40,000 crown princes, or the murderously fundamental clergy it supports, Buckley uses the baton passed to him by the dying Evelyn Waugh to ridicule America's most embarrassing ally in the most amusing way possible, deploying high gags and low (camel gas is the best). Our heroine is beautiful State Department Arabist Florence Farfaletti, 32, who receives a midnight phone call from Nazrah, a princess married to Prince Bawad, a Washington fixture and one of the 40,000 crown princes of the oil-rich kingdom of Wasabia (Buckley's puns never let up, but they're good). Princess Nazrah has fled the odiously polygamous Bawad to seek asylum at the CIA, but the gates are down and the Wasabian guards are about to drag her back to certain execution. Can't Florence do something? Alas, there's no time, and the rebellious princess loses her head. A furious Florence finds herself mysteriously financed as she hatches a scheme to bring down the Wasabis and all the other patriarchal oligarchs by means of a sort of Arab Lifetime Channel, television for anyone restless in her burqah. Assisted by a gay friend from the Arab desk, an exuberant Gucci Gulch flack, and a handsome and resourceful Cajun mercenary, Florence sets up her broadcasting shop in the emirate of Matar, where the sheika Laila, wife of the booby on thethrone, is eager to help out. More heads roll, and Florence almost loses her own before things are sorted out. Buckley is a literary WMD. Thank heavens he's ours. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

CHRISTOPER BUCKLEY is the author of ten books and the founding editor of Forbes FYI magazine, but is proudest of the fact that he recently had a ten-and-a-half-hour lunch with Christopher (no relation) Hitchens. He (Buckley, not Hitchens) was managing editor of Esquire at age 24, and worked as a merchant marine and a White House speechwriter. He was awarded the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, but lost it during the lunch with Hitchens. Florence of Arabia is his first and probably last Middle East comedy.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Florence of Arabia 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Florence of Arabia' is really a serious book. It's written as a farce and has its hilarious moments. The pages dealing with the colonic difficulties of Shem the Royal Camel had me laughing out loud. But there is nothing funny about stoning and beating women to death. Imprisoning a woman in a cell with the corpse of her 'supposed' dead lover isn't amusing either. The entire plot is grim and frightening. I read a short biography of Fern Holland on whose tragic life and death this book is loosely based. Buckley's intention is to bring the ineptitude of the United States, the greed of the French, and the entire Middle Eastern medieval mentality to our attention and keep us amused in the process. And I WAS amused, but I didn't like it that I was. If you can follow that. 'Florence' is worth the reading.
bookworm1228 More than 1 year ago
In many ways, I think Florence of Arabia has some interesting things to say about the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. I admire Christopher Buckley for being brave enough to laugh at both sides pretty mercilessly, as well as for creating a number of likeable and human characters (as well as some distinctly less likeable ones). At the same time, there were points in the book that were a bit shallow. For example, I'm not sure exactly why every female main character had to be ravishingly beautiful. It seemed like they had enough going for them without constantly commenting on their gorgeous looks. There were also moments where the plot took some pretty fantastical turns. I'm still trying to decide if this was necessary for the book to stay slightly light-hearted (the subject matter gets pretty hefty by the middle) or if it was a bit much. Overall though, the book was definitely not a waste of my time, and I would probably recommend it to people who are not overly invested in the Middle East conflicts and don't get offended easily.
nvata2d More than 1 year ago
Christopher Buckley fans will not be disappointed with this funny take on changing paradigms in fictional middle eastern countries. Not only is this book relevant to the customs of (most) Middle East locales I've visited but the ideas Buckley visits on how the United States wants/tries to sabotage their ideals and way of thinking is downright hilarious! This book is funny and amazingly action-packed. If you like Christopher Buckley, Florence of Arabia is a must-read!
rnbeckytNYC More than 1 year ago
I adore Christopher Buckley's books. Florence of Arabia is his best; a side-splitting, laugh-out-loud book about a US plot to subvert a Middle Eastern regime using an Oprah-like TV personality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Saudis, the UN, and even the publishers of the DaVinci Code are fair game in this story about an American female who starts a 'TV for women' in the middle east. I know of no author writing funnier political satire with the same wit and edge as Buckley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of his other work...but it seems as if he wrote this book too quickly and tried to make it as ridiculous as possible...its silly and simple...unlike most of his other work...I really can't recommend it...