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Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Girls of Riyadh (original 2005; edition 2008)

by Rajaa Alsanea, Rajaa Alsanea (Translator), Marilyn Booth (Translator)

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8055211,340 (3.38)56
Title:Girls of Riyadh
Authors:Rajaa Alsanea
Other authors:Rajaa Alsanea (Translator), Marilyn Booth (Translator)
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Saudi Arabia, Islam

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Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea (2005)



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English (43)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (52)
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Sadeem, Gamrah, Lamees and Mashael are 'velvet' class girls in their first year of university: rich, privileged, and constantly brushing up against the strictures of Saudi society. They accept the teachings of Islam without question, but they long for love and hope to find men of their own choosing who will accept them as the free-spirited thinkers that they try to be.

On the surface of it, this is exactly the sort of book I hate: chick lit, in which 4 smart, independent girls define themselves almost entirely through their (much-imagined) love lives. The book is entirely given over to their dreams and heartbreak. But I didn't hate it. I swept through it rapidly, intrigued by the conflict between the girls aspirations and their situation, and fascinated by this rare glimpse into a society I know fairly little about: Saudi Arabia.

Ultimately, it is a paean to the right to make your own choices; to abandon social prejudices (or at least some of them; the section dealing with a Sunni/Shiite friendship remains awkwardly underdeveloped - crossing this religious boundary seems to remain beyond the pale); and a rallying cry to recognise the value of a smart, independent woman rather than abandon her for an uneducated, sheltered girl who can be dominated. A searing moment - a critic writing in to question why a man wouldn't marry another man if he was looking for that sort of relationship. Ouch.

But it is worth noting that it focuses strictly on a class showered with money and privilege. Compared with less well-off girls, the friends are bemoaning the cultural equivalent of #firstworldproblems - I was reminded of A Thousand Splendid Suns precisely because there are no similarities here. Regardless, this was a good read and I'm glad I finally got to it. ( )
  imyril | Sep 14, 2014 |
Riyadh, for personal reasons, is a place that is near and dear to my heart and since I needed another book for my Muslim reading challenge, I thought I should give Girls of Riyadh a try.

Girls of Riyadh had a lot of hype and controversy when it first came out. Some people blasted it for exposing unIslamic stuff, while others praised it for being a modern Saudi novel that shows how Saudis are really like.

So when I opened up the book, I was expecting to either be shocked and intrigued by all of the stuff that's actually happening in Saudi, or angry that it was just a book that's meant appease the West as it bad mouths Muslims. Or, I'd be surprisingly pleased at the balanced look it gave to my Saudi.

Now that I'm done, I'm not shocked, I'm not intrigued, I'm not angry, and I'm not pleased. I don't really feel anything. I think one of the biggest reasons for this is due to the hype surrounding this novel. I had big expectations and none of them were fulfilled.

Girls of Riyadh is just Gossip Girls without the sex and alcohol. It's the lives of privileged Saudi women who try to find their place in the world. Only, it's not really that. It's actually a story of four women, one of them tries to complete her dreams, while the rest fall in love, get hurt, and become bitter about men and love.

As a Muslim, marriage is a big thing to us. Everyone, men and women, want to find that special someone so they can be married and fulfill the hadith (traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)) where he said that marriage is 'half of ones deen (religion).'

It's a pretty big deal, so I did enjoy reading about the girls obsessing over that. But then, it got to the point where their lives were dictated by the men that they love. And once it didn't work out, they'd be an emotional wreck until the next guy comes.

It got boring after awhile. Out of the four, only one doesn't fall in this trap and surprisingly enough is the only one who ends up happy in love and not scorned.

By itself, Girls of Riyadh isn't a bad novel. It flows well and it will keep you reading, but if you've read up on all of the controversy surrounding this book, you might end up disappointed when you find that this is just a regular run of the mill chick lit.

I dunno. I just expected more. ( )
  pdbkwm | Sep 8, 2014 |
Chick lit from Kuwait. Four young women from very wealthy families search for love, and the meaning of love, within the strictures of religion, culture, and class. You think it's hard to navigate finding a loving mate as a Westerner? Try being a woman in the Middle East. ( )
  AuntieClio | May 28, 2014 |
bought 07/02/2009, Pearl City bookstore, 70 RMB

I'm always interested in reading about other cultures, especially those which are so different from my own. I enjoyed this book but it was pretty lightweight.

( )
  Susanna.Dilliott | Apr 23, 2014 |
It is like Saudi MB - only happy ending is not guaranteed. It is like secret lives of upper-class Saudi girls - more than physical access to men - they have phone sex and cyber sex et al. ( )
  poonamsharma | Apr 6, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rajaa Alsaneaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aabakken, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Booth, MarilynTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colombo, ValentinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corthay, SimonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mossaad, AntonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooke, TetzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smiths-Jacob, BertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woillez, CharlotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Verily, Allah does not change a people's condition until they change what is in themselves." -- Qur'an, Surat Al-Ra'd (The Chapter of Thunder), Verse 11
To my most beloved; Mom and sister Rasha and to all my friends, the Girls of Riyadh
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Ladies and Gentlemen: You are invited to join me in one of the most explosive scandals and noisiest, wildest all-night parties around.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014311347X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:40 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The tale of four young women university students from Riyadh follows their struggles to navigate the precarious paths between desire, fulfillment, and Islamic tradition while witnessing how the Arab world is being changed by new economic and political realities.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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