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The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai by Maha…

The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai (2009)

by Maha Gargash

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6710271,775 (3.29)25
Coming of age in the 1950s, seventeen-year-old Noora is unlike other women of the sun-battered mountains at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Though she shares their poverty and, like them, bears life's hardships without complaint, she is also fiery and independent. Following the death of her mother and her father's descent into dazed madness, Noora flees the threat of an arranged marriage, only to be driven back to her unwanted fate by disappointment and heartbreak. As the third wife to a rich, much older man, Noora struggles to adjust to her new home by the sea, thinking of herself as a sand fish--the desert lizard she observed in the mountains, which, when stuck in the wrong place and desperate to escape, smashed itself again and again into unyielding rocks. But then a light is shone into her miserable darkness, resulting in an unexpected passion, a shocking indiscretion, and a secret that could jeopardize Noora's life.… (more)

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1950 in the mountains of Dubai. A young woman is married against her will and tricked into pregnancy. She needs to decide between love or security. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Sep 16, 2018 |
This novel is set in 1950s Dubai. Strong-willed and independent 17-year-old Noora lives with her conservative brother who will not rest until he has seen her married. Despite her objections he betroths her as a third wife to a rich, much older man.

Noora's father had been liberal and reared a resilient woman, able to hold her own, but her situation becomes very challenging. She puts her life at risk when her curiosity leads to a dangerous, passionate liaison with a charming, young man.

This is definitely not modern Dubai and the cultural setting is a far cry from the modern throbbing metropolis that is Dubai now. The book provided a window into the Bedouin lifestyle decades ago, and was surprisingly not translated but penned directly in enjoyable, lyrical English. ( )
1 vote akeela | Aug 17, 2013 |
I enjoyed the description of scenes in this book. It was beautiful. I felt myself drawn back in time. The edition I read came with additional information on the author and her inspiration for writing the book. That was fascinating as she also gives you an insight into Dubai and special places to visit. ( )
  Carole888 | Apr 30, 2013 |
Gargash's novel is set in 1950s Dubai -- when the pearl industry was still the main source of wealth, and oil had not yet been discovered within its borders. This is not the Dubai of the UAE, the Burj Khalifa or jet-setting tourism; its residents are Bedouins and merchants living very much within a highly traditional, near medieval, culture.

Noora, a 17-year old Bedouin girl, feels she is holding her family together after her mother's death and her father's descent into semi-madness. But her brother, eager to assure her welfare, promises her in marriage as a third wife to a wealthy pearl merchant. Noora is brought into the family essentially as a breeder -- to provide her elderly husband with the child he has never had. It soon becomes obvious that her husband is sterile. Her immediate rival is the young second wife, her husband's favorite, who has, unfortunately, not provided the heir. The first wife sees the naive young Bedouin as a way back into her husband's favors by creating the opportunity for an heir to be conceived. But Noora is clever and manages to carve out a secure position for herself.

An interesting look into yet another society is which women must try to assure their positions by subtlety and deceit. ( )
3 vote janeajones | Sep 16, 2012 |
The Sand Fish by Maha Gargash was an eagerly anticipated read as I was excited to be reading a book about the United Arab Emirates written by an Emirati. This story is set in the 1950’s, before the discovery of oil and the massive development that followed, and tells the story of Noora, a poor mountain raised girl who is basically sold into marriage to a rich, older man as his third wife. Her main purpose to this man is to bear a child, preferably male.

I was interested in the day to day life details and the interaction between the sister-wives. The power rested firmly in the hands of the first wife and she was also eager for a baby to be delivered to the family. The baby competition was between the second and third wives, as whomever managed to deliver would have an easier life overall. How this situation was resolved was the main focus of the story.

What I really liked about this book is that Noora is true to her culture. She wears the burka proudly and accepts her fate, although not happily, but with the acceptance born of generations of bowing to men’s authority. She does not question being the third wife, or even the possession of a slave.

I found The Sand Fish to be an engaging read but overall felt it lacked depth. I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied as I would have like the story to have continued on as it ended rather abruptly. I am curious as to how Nooras’ life would have evolved. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Mar 26, 2011 |
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