Girls of Riyadh - Rajaa Alsanea
Country: Saudi Arabia
Girls of Riyadh intrigued me precisely because of its title – girls in Riyadh are never spoken of, never written of, and therefore it was immensely appealing to gain some perspective on a world that is never really discussed.
As a summer read, it checks many boxes and it is an engaging page turner.
Set in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh, the book follows the lives of 4 friends as told in a gossip blog style. At times, the story unravels like a Gossip Girl plot, and you imagine the characters as Paris Hilton-equse drama queens. At others, you see the immense conflict of their lives as they try to reconcile their Western interests with the traditional structure of their families. As the young women dream of careers in medicine and business, they remain preoccupied with the constraints of their lives and the balance between their ambition and the expectations they face.
This book certainly falls under the category of “chick-lit” – it’s superficial, gossipy, and filled with drama. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it – a great, light summer read! I loved that it was set in a country that’s know for anything but fun chick lit, and I really enjoyed being able to relate to the everyday struggles (both silly and serious) of the characters. However, I can’t say it inspired me to travel to Saudi Arabia. Despite the often light-hearted nature of the book, it’s not enough to override the significant concerns to safety and well being I would face in Saudi Arabia. I would recommend this book for anyone traveling to the region, as it gives a fresh, entertaining, interesting look at the lives of young Saudi women, but it falls short of providing any genuine insight or education about the complex political world they live in.
27/6/2013 06:08:44 am
Good analogy - there is a Sex in the City vibe to the book. It makes for a cute read and it's nice to know that girls are girls, but it does gloss over the massive problems in gender inequality in this region.
27/6/2013 10:02:06 am
I'm not normally a fan of chick lit (as in sex and the city) but I do like literature set in other countries. I've been reading a lot of Asian fiction (have you read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) but they are always filled with tragedy for some reason....I may give this book a whirl. Thanks for the review
8/9/2013 05:34:06 am
Thanks for the recommendation for the new books - I'll check them out!
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