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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary…

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988)

by Hilary Mantel

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Thoroughly enjoyed this book...the setting, the characters, the atmosphere, the tension...all of which would be a challenge for any marriage. Published over 25 years ago, I would bet things have not changed much in the Saudi culture in all that time. Author Hiliary Mantel did spend some time in the Middle East, so I am sure she did draw on her experience there to create this story of intrigue and suspense. ( )
  readyreader | May 29, 2014 |
I continued my Mantel read-a-thon with this book, which I found a little disappointing in comparison to the other books by her that I have read. This relatively early work (1988) focuses on a 30-ish British woman who, after living/working in Africa, follows her husband to a construction management job in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she lives an isolated existence in a 4-unit apartment building. She becomes somewhat friendly with her two neighbors, both religiously observant, increasingly anxious about a mysteriously unoccupied -- but not unused -- apartment in the building, and annoyed and aggravated by the frustrations of being a woman in Jeddah and by the denseness of her husband's ex-pat colleagues. A somewhat confusing mystery with an unexplained ending ensues. The real issue is how one can learn what is going on when everything is a secret, behind closed doors; when misinformation thrives; and when what people tell you may not be true. The creepiest part of the book is at the very end when you count up the months and then go back to the memo that starts off the novel. Mantel is wonderful, as always, at psychology and at poking holes in conventional wisdom, but the story is not as compelling as her later works. If this had been the first Mantel I read, I don't know if I would have become the fan I am
  rebeccanyc | Apr 14, 2010 |
Masterfully blending gothic horror tropes with a careful study of the intellectual dislocation and resulting eccentric behavior of Westerners working in Saudi Arabia, Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street is a riveting and remarkable novel. Mantel has the great novelist's eye for telling detail, and she describes the many strange landscapes and uncertain moments confronting her protagonist in such well-honed, immediate language that the character's confusion and sense of disorder are carried over to the reader. A stylistic triumph. ( )
1 vote brendanmoody | Dec 8, 2009 |
Bizarro-World Islamofascism and conspicuous consumption all up in your teeth in the Saudi Arabia of the 1980s, filtered through expat alienation and with a creepy gothic mystery thrown in for no reason except to be awesome. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Jun 18, 2007 |
Disappointing. The author does a good job of creating an oppressive atmosphere but I didn't feel like there was much else to back it up. VERY slow and pretty darned boring, which partially I think was intentional (to make you feel like the main character) but it is still slow and boring. The resolution of the "mystery" is recounted in the same tone and seems like it could almost go unnoticed. A weak end for something that is not that fun to read and at the same time mildly anxiety provoking. ( )
1 vote catapogo | Mar 22, 2006 |
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For Vic and Jeanie Camp
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I need not remind anyone of this week's tragic events involving Turadup employees.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When Frances Shore moves to Saudi Arabia, she settles in a nondescript sublet, sure that common sense and an open mind will serve her well with her Muslim neighbors. But in the dim, airless flat, Frances spends lonely days writing in her diary, hearing the sounds of sobs through the pipes from the floor above, and seeing the flitting shadows of men on the stairwell. It’s all in her imagination, she’s told by her neighbors; the upstairs flat is empty, no one uses the roof. But Frances knows otherwise, and day by day, her sense of foreboding grows even as her sense of herself begins to disintegrate.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:48 -0400)

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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.… (more)

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