08 February 2013

Book review: Girls of Riyadh


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.

10 comments:

Valerie Serag said...

I loved the book very much and already read it several times. I liked the character Sadeem most, as she is the most passionate one and I could identify myself with her very much. Still I wouldnt publish anything about my friends and dont appreciate that the author did this. Although the names might be changed its breaking trust at the highest level.

Safiyya said...

I love your opinions! I haven't read the book nor I'm going to. Your review was enough, haha.

Mwah!

StylishMuslimah said...

Valerie: I find it interesting that you preferred Sadeem over the others! I didn't like the way she loved both Waleed and Firas so boundlessly, no man deserves that sort of love! I think Lamees was the best, I like the way she acted towards her education, Islam and men.

Safiyya: Aww that's such a sweet thing to say :) Thanks! Will you be making a third attempt at blogging btw? I hope so!

Salam x

imaanii said...

Salaam sis,
Thanks for telling us about this. :) I don't want to buy the book after reading this. :( I can understand why the final chapter made you feel uneasy.

StylishMuslimah said...

imaanii: Glad you found the review helpful! Yes, I think the author put the chance of publishing a best seller over the trust of her friend, which I find quite unbelievable. I mean who are you supposed to trust these day?

Salam x

Safiyya said...

I really enjoy reading other people's blog, but at the moment I don't think I can be dedicated to my own blog (I know I might be treating this as a too big of a thing, hehe) but inshAllah, I'm happy you asked about it!

StylishMuslimah said...

Safiyya: Haha! I remember treating it like a huge deal as well, but it's not it's just a bit of fun :)

Arezu In Wonderland said...

I loved reading the book, but can't remember the end of the book.
that isn`t nice at all.

XO Arezu

Naqiah said...

I've read this I don't like it a single bit! I agree with you in this review! Glad to know I am not alone!

Anonymous said...

The problem with these so called true story books are they are not true, lol,

There is a few books out there same type of stuff, its just a easy book to write easy money,

The other book i was thinking about was abouta girl in al sham i think,but turned out to be a lie, the normal arab women gets beat up, oppressed yawn yawn, but made best sellers for a week or so, the so called writer female arab is chilling in the states married to a none muslim claims not to be much of a muslim her self,

Masallah