Thursday, June 01, 2017

Review- Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Girls of Riyadh on Goodreads


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.

Release date: July 5th 2007
Published by: Fig Tree
Page numbers: 320


I remember picking up Girls of Riyadh at a random book sale in my city a few years ago. Since then, the gorgeous book with sparkling gold embossed sequins and the title written in the same way in bright red and pink, had been sitting on my shelf. I was looking forward to reading it since it talks about the contemporary condition and situation of women in Saudi Arabia. I was extremely curious to know all about it as 1) I studied feminism and love reading and exploring the field more and 2) after hearing so much about women in Saudi, I wanted to read and find out about them myself.

Girls of Riyadh, as the title suggests, is set in Riyadh and tells the story of four elite Saudi women and everything they go through in life. It gave a very interesting glimpse into the lives of these women, who, over the course of the book, grow from eager teenagers to strong women. These four friends, Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees, live lives within the confines of society; but forget being women, as human beings, they, like you and I, have emotions and feelings; which is why, they go through experiences that end up teaching them so much about life. In a way, the book doesn't just portray the image of Saudi women, but of women who live under male domination, which is most parts of the world. And it also gives an excellent glimpse into the minds of men. 

While the way in which the author portrayed Saudi and its women was meticulous, the story itself is what bothered me sometimes, because I just could not understand why the main characters did something they did as it seemed very naive and irritating at times. I do get why stuff happened and how people tend to take relationships very seriously and then it damages them, but when one doesn't learn from one's experiences, that's when it starts bothering me to no end; which started happening towards the end of Girls of Riyadh. But I have to appreciate the fact that this book talks about everything; raw, real and ruthless.

All that aside, however, the way in which this book is written is very unique and interesting as its a girl sending out emails about her friends to practically every email user in Saudi. The way these readers become curious to know more and more about Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees mirrored my enthusiasm and curiosity as well since whenever I wasn't reading the book, I couldn't wait to get back to their very exciting and entertaining lives, which is always a plus point because a book truly means something when it's on you mind even when you're not reading it. I do wish the writer of the emails was revealed at the end though. 

The fact that Girls of Riyadh was first written in Arabic and then translated in English and was even banned in Saudi and is still doing so well proves what Malala says- "Extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book". But also, a girl with knowledge and experience. I applaud author Rajaa Alsanea for writing this crisp, curious and very clear book about women. I will definitely use this book for further research and I definitely recommend it to everyone who loves reading and gaining knowledge from reading.

Buy the book: AMAZON

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