Girls of Riyadh

( 29 )

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 ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Time
The daring debut by a young Saudi Arabian woman— "imagine Sex and the City, if the city in question were Riyadh
Los Angeles Times
[The] work of a brave, intelligent young woman. One of those rare books with the power to shake up an entrenched society.
Seattle Times
Engaging, enlightening, enjoyable.
Washington Post
A taboo-breaking novel.
San Francisco Chronicle
A rare glimpse into ordinary life for young women in Saudi Arabia.
Publishers Weekly

Four 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)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
While studying endodontics in Chicago, Saudi Arabian Alsanea published a first novel in Arabic about four very contemporary young Saudi women resisting -society's efforts to contain them. It was banned forthwith in her homeland and has since been sold to 11 countries. With a seven-city tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Alsanea's debut, which sparked controversy in her native Saudi Arabia, concerns four wealthy Muslim girlfriends who support each other in the quest for the perfect husband. An anonymous narrator relays the story via weekly emails to a chat group. The preoccupation with shopping and boy talk among the four central characters, who have been friends since schooldays, seems familiar at first, but the separation of the genders, the veils and the tinted glass soon indicate that different rules apply here. Sadeem gets engaged to Waleed but makes the mistake of permitting him to "cross the line" before the marriage is finalized, and he "divorces" her. Gamrah, married to Rashid, can't understand his coldness toward her until she discovers he has had a lover all along. Gamrah too ends up divorced, and pregnant. Michelle falls for Faisal, but his mother objects to her family so there will be no wedding. Lamees gets involved with her Shiite friend's brother, until the Religious Police catch them. These four privileged members of the "velvet class" enjoy expensive cars, first-class flights and plastic surgery (which is against the laws of Islam) but are still subject to the marriage market, where strict tradition holds sway: arranged unions, "pure" females and jealously protective men. Lamees succeeds in making a love match, but Sadeem experiences a second, much deeper disappointment before settling for someone who loves her more than she loves him. Michelle takes revenge on Faisal, attending his wedding looking far lovelier than the bride. Perfunctory storytelling attracts greater interest because of its unusual origins.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143113478
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 279,125
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

RAJAA ALSANEA grew up in Riyadh, the daughter of a family of doctors. She intends to return to Saudi Arabia after attaining a degree in Endodontics. Two weeks after the release of Girls of Riyadh in Arabic, the book became a #1 bestseller. Rajaa is twenty-sixyears- old, and this is her first novel.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2008

    A glimpse of another culture...

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Brilliant!

    This book is awesome. I loved the writing style and the characters were interesting and had very different personalities. And some parts are funny.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I loved this book! Read it on a Nook, and I couldn't put it down

    I loved this book! Read it on a Nook, and I couldn't put it down. Definitely worth reading. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Had me hooked

    This book is fantastic. I loved the characters.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    cultural enlightment

    A DEFINITE read! I learned so much about Saudi traditions. Exactly what I was looking for. Wish it did not end. I would take notes on the characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

    Free your Mind

    Girls of Riyadh was an awakening story. Although Saudi women (and men) live life through traditions, they crave the same friendships and love all the world crave. I highly recommend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Enlightening!

    This book is a quick read and hard to put down once you start reading. It was insightful about the reality of Arab culture and an excellent book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 21, 2009

    Great book!

    I thought this book was awesome. The author did a great job of defining her characters and inviting the reader into the lives of her characters. The author gave the reader a sense of understanding. When I was reading the book I felt as though I was there during the different plots and events. This would be a great book for a women's book club. Each week you would have something new and interesting to discuss!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 6, 2009

    A Rare Glimpse into the Lives of Saudi Women

    Girls of Riyadh is, more or less, a Saudi take on Sex in the City - only with more substance.

    Rajaa al-Sanea captivates readers with this story of a small group of upper-middle-class/upper-class friends experiencing what most western college-age girls do, only in Saudi Arabia.

    By American standards, the issues addressed - education, career, love, marriage, sex and homosexuality - are timid. Given the story's setting and the author's national home, however, it's altogether daring. In fact, Girls of Riyadh is banned in Saudi Arabia.

    This book provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Saudi women. It's definitely worth a read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Inside Glimpse of Young Saudi Women

    This is the story of the lives of 4 middle class young Saudi women. It tells the story of their lives and loves in the engaging and original writing style of an email list. I enjoyed reading it and seeing what some women of another culture go through and sometimes how universal things can be. Bravo to the author for stepping out and showing us these characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    This book opens your eyes to the Arabic culture traditions in Saudi Arabia

    This book opens your eyes to the Arabic culture traditions in Saudi Arabia. This is a story of 4 Saudi women looking for love and how their culture acts against it. I enjoy reading women's fiction and how women search for love, but this book put a new spin on it. We feel what these women feel and it's sad what their culture considers "risky." In America, we wouldn't even blink an eye. It took awhile to get into the fact that the author was writing her story in a "Yahoo Group" and you need to almost write down the character's names with side notes to follow. The names are very similar and sometimes it's hard to follow the translation, but overall I enjoyed it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    a new low in boredom...

    Different culture.. yes. That was the only thing good about this book. I found the writing juvenile and sluggish and weak. Way too many characters with names that all sound the same. Okay, so the email concept was different. But it's been done before. I struggled through the book. It was a constant battle to keep awake. "Why bother?" I'd think. "Life is too short." Finished it only because it was the book club's choice for this month. If it was still winter, I'd use the book as kindling in my fireplace.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    I read this book, and even though I thought it was pretty insightful on the ways of the middle east, I really was kind of turned off by the way society seems to work over there. The ways of marrige even if its without love probably was the thing that got me most. I give this author alot of credit for going agenst her rules I guess you would say, of her culture by writing this book, I was very sad and dissapointed in the ending. The way she end up with her cousins. To me it was too...strange

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2008

    Wonderful

    The book gave a peak into another culture, that we,as Americans, have a lot of misconceptions about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2007

    Different - an Exotic Setting

    A decent first effort with an interesting format of e-mail messages to depict the trials and tribulations of finding love in Saudi Arabia.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews

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