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Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley

Florence of Arabia (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Christopher Buckley, Carrington MacDuffie (Narrator)

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4561322,833 (3.49)11
Title:Florence of Arabia
Authors:Christopher Buckley
Other authors:Carrington MacDuffie (Narrator)
Info:Books on Tape, Inc. (2004), Edition: Unabridged, Audio Cassette
Collections:Your library

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Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley (2004)



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Florence of Arabia ( )
  Calavari | Jun 7, 2016 |
This is another book that for me defies easy categorization. It's part political thriller/satire, tackling real issues about fundamentalism and Islam and Middle Eastern politics, especially in the context of feminism. But that the same time it's actually very funny in parts, as though it were a nice chick-lit beach read. It's an odd combination, but it works! ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Արյա ոնց եմ ես սրան սիրում: 2 գլուխ եմ դեռ կարդացել, բայց արդեն երրորդ անգամ սի​րահարվեցի նույն հեղինակին :D ( )
  Dorian_am | Mar 7, 2013 |
Well its Christopher Buckley so one can expect some eviscerating satire and plenty of laughs (though I didn't think it was anywhere near as funny as [Little Green Men].) The subject matter looks interesting and is initially. Florence Farfarletti of the State department is outraged after the youngest wife of Prince Bawad, the ambassador of Wasabia flees from her home and pleads for asylum from the U.S. government. Wishing to avoid an international incident the government hands her back to the Prince and she meets a grisly end back in Wasabia. Charged with indignation, Florence puts together a plan to try and influence the Middle east and bring about social and cultural change that will improve the plight of the region's women. Her plan is rejected and she is booted out of the state department but then a mysterious stranger from an unnamed secret agency shows up at her doorstep and offers her the resources to put her plan into action. She moves to the Arabian emirate of Matar and sets up a Television station which starts beaming religiously subversive and empowering programming which immediately has an impact on the region. Outraged, the Wasabians start plotting with the French (looking for oil contracts and a naval base in Matar) to bring down the government of Matar and impose Wasabian-style fundamentalist laws on that country too. Needless to say this was not part of Florence's plans.

The fundamentalist-blighted land of Wasabia is obviously an analogue of Saudi Arabia and Matar seems to be a combination of Qatar and Bahrain. The tale is leavened with humour but also grisly and shocking scenes. The story itself at times shows signs of sophistication in terms of understanding the region and international politics but at other times it feels as if the author is putting forward ideas and plot twists that have more to do with conforming to the average American reader's sensibilities circa 2004 than trying to provide an insight into the actual political situation in the region.

In 2012 the Arab Spring has shown that the idea that it takes American intervention to bring about social change in the region seems a little quaint. Events in Bahrain over the last couple of years suggest that it is not the French who are willing to back a despotic monarchy against its population's demands for social change in order to secure oil supplies and a naval base but the United States (after all that's where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in the region's largest naval facility, which is currently being expanded in preparation for any upcoming confrontation with Iran.) In the book Wasabia sends its armed forces into Matar to squelch the troublesome demands for women's equality and the TV channel which is inspiring them. The move was eerily reflected last year when the Saudis sent in their armed forces last year to help put down pro-democracy protesters and in current announcements of a Saudi-Bahraini union.

Lastly the idea that a U.S. funded TV channel will be the harbinger of a social revolution was probably inspired by the real-life decision by the Bush government to fund an Arabic-language television channel. The problem is that Al Hurra television which has been on air since 2004 and receives $100 million a year from the U.S. government has very little credibility in the region and certainly much less than Al Jazeera, Al Arabiyya or various other news and entertainment channels. Its programming has not even been that revolutionary and has actually been criticized at times by progressives for featuring programming that projects fundamentalist or sectarian views and even Holocaust denial.

So I'm knocking a star off the book's rating for misrepresenting geopolitical and social realities. That doesn't mean however that the book is not worth reading. It is entertaining and the story is a compelling and amusing one if you can just make peace with its fantastical elements. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Jun 6, 2012 |
the previous reviews pretty much say everything I would say. I didn't find it all that funny. I would put it right up there with the [Olivia Jules] book. ( )
  benitastrnad | Dec 1, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
As one has come to expect from Buckley, the premise is a clever one ... But its execution, like the garb of most of the novel's female characters, leaves something to be desired. "Florence of Arabia" falls flat, not even Sunni side up.
added by MikeBriggs | editLos Angeles Times, Shashi Tharoor (Oct 24, 2004)
As a dissector of human folly, the author wields a mean chainsaw,although he isn't quite in the side-splitting form he displayed from thevery first sentence of "Thank You for Smoking" (1994).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972260, Paperback)

The bestselling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and Presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world–Arab-American relations–in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t delight.

Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world.

The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she’s enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced “Mutter”), the “Switzerland of the Persian Gulf.” Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows.

The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self-defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as “Friends from Hell.”

The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station’s entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that’s only the beginning.

A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley’s funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Florence Farfarletti has a plan for female emancipation in the Middle East, and enlists the help of a diverse group to help her carry out her plan of reaching her audience with TV shows.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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