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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031242289X, Paperback)Frances Shore has been warned about Saudi Arabia from the word go. En route to join her uncommunicative engineer husband, she tries to ignore the rumors and rumblings she has already heard--women can't drive, alcohol is illegal, morality regulated. But even she is surprised by the airline steward's surreal lesson. The Saudis are "too bloody secretive to have maps," he tells her. "Besides, the streets are never in the same place for more than a few weeks altogether." Frances's first morning in her new home is not quite what she might have expected. There is no telephone, and Andrew has locked the back door behind him (the previous occupant had the front door bricked up so his wife wouldn't encounter her male neighbors). It is, however, similar to the days to come, which oscillate between boredom and fear--the nights broken only by tedious business dinners and sub rosa distilling. When she is allowed outside, she is assailed by official warnings--highway signs reading "YOU ARE FAST, BUT DANGER IS FASTER," a library handout begging, "PLEASE make EVERY effort to return your books if you have to leave the Kingdom hurriedly and unexpectedly." The outside world is ominous enough, but there's also something odd going on in the apartment building: noise from the supposedly empty flat above. The title of this blackly humorous, frightening novel begins to sound like a reprieve: Frances and Andrew Shore will at least be able to leave the country after 8 months. But Hilary Mantel's final twist destroys any dreams of leaving. As one character had earlier warned: "It isn't the roads in town that are dangerous, it's the roads out."
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:59 -0400)
Frances Shore is a cartographer by trade, a maker of maps, but when her husband's work takes them to Saudi Arabia she finds herself unable to map the Kingdom's areas of internal darkness. The regime is corrupt and harsh, the expatriates are hard-drinking money-grubbers and her Muslim neighbours are secretive and watchful.
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