Now that my mid-year exams are over (alhaaaaaaaamduli'Allah) I have had a few days off before I start my next semester. I have spent my time being as lazy as I jolly well want to be :) I have also been engrossed in the book 'Girls of Riyadh' by Rajaa Alsanea which I just finished and decided to review considering someone on the blog actually recommended it to me a few days ago.
The book itself is a true story originally in Arabic and written in the form of emails recounting the personal lives of four of the author's close friends living in Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia). The emails were complied into a book in 2005 and (of course) instantly banned in the country, although that has since been lifted.
The book starts off with the first email describing the wedding of the author's friend Gamrah and introduces the other girls. Each new chapter is a new email and each email is about a different friend (Lamees, Michelle, Gamrah and Sadeem). She mostly talks about the love lives of the girls and their various heartbreaks throughout.
I have to admit, I found the first half of the book un-put-downable and was particularly touched by the tragic story of Gamrah, who marries a man who not only despises her very presence in his life but has been in love with a Chinese woman for 7 years (before being made to marry a Saudi girl to keep up appearances). As the book progressed, however, I found the continual stories of love and heartbreak of the girls with different men to be off-putting. I got bored of their lives that seemed to centre only around the pursuit of 'love' of a man, I felt sorry for them that their happiness - or lack of - revolved heavily around having a relationship.
When the book comes to an end, the author writes the final chapter regarding the reactions of her four friends to the emails she wrote exposing intimate parts of their lives. Three of them are surprisingly fine with it, except one who realises that she was the character 'Gamrah' and demands that her friend stop writing about her. It sort of sickened me that despite 'Gamrah's' pleas Rajaa Alsanea continues to write about her friend's life and goes on to publish the book, all the while refusing to write about her own personal life.
I enjoyed the book but reading the final chapter left a bitter taste in my mouth. I deem it extremely disrespectful to her friends that she revealed their personal lives without consenting them first, while maintaining that her own life remains unexposed to the world.
I give the story itself 3 stars out of 5. For her deception, I give the author zero and regret that she makes money out of this book.