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Set amidst the turmoil of contemporary Middle Eastern politics, this vivid and highly-acclaimed novel by an Egyptian journalist is an intimate look into the lives of Arab women today. Here, a woman who grows up among the Egyptian elite, marries a Westernized husband, and, while pursuing graduate study, becomes embroiled in a love affair with an uncouth Englishman.
Posted April 20, 2001
I really did enjoy reading this book--Soueif's masterful descriptions and fascinating characters make this easy--however, I found that I really did not sympathize much with the protagonist, Asya. I should have, though. Asya is growing up in the 70s in a Muslim country that is experiencing internal and external political turmoil. Asya was not raised as a traditional Muslim; her parents are intellectuals who seem to merely go through the motions where their religious lives are concerned. They seem more worried about following social constructs than religious ones. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. However, it does seem to cripple Asya in some ways, as she is too high and mighty to be really Egyptian, yet she is too Egyptian to be truly European. She doesn't understand what she wants to be, let alone what she should be. She looks to her mother, girlfriends, and husband for guidance, but each gives a different answer. Plus, she has no internal moral compass to guide her. She was bound to let someone down, including the reader, who comes to want nothing but the best for her in her life. That said, this novel was amazing. Soueif was really able to capture this character well, as well as the other characters. But you should be careful not to mistake the Egyptian characters of Asya's family and friends in her social stratum as typical Egyptians. But I found myself longing for a different story as I read this one--a story of devout Muslim people trying to live Muslim, Arabic lives in a changing country, a changing world. The characters in this novel are very Western in their thoughts and desires--a result of years of occupation by Western nations. What's more, the narrator and Asya both appear to have contempt for devout Muslims and for country people, and they look to Europe for all things civilized and proper, and from what I've read, that is not an unusual opinion for modern Egyptians of the upper classes. How unfortunate they seem to me as I consider the pyramids...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2000
this book addresses the internal as well as the social conflicts that arab women face at home or abroad when exposed to the western ideas or simply struggling with their internal natural impulses. This book will give you an insight into the arabic way of living and will highlight the stuggles of women in that part of the world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.