Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Girls of Riyadh - Rajaa Alsanea

Tale of Four friends of Saudi upper class families, doing their graduation at University and Medical school between Riyadh and US. Each story is the same , one girl after other falling in love with the first male coming on their way, only to be a victim of rejection at the end. The location shifts from Riyadh, to Jeddah to Paris , London , Chicago or San Francisco going through the same set of events.

In every girl there is a rebel inside. One who is against the injustice of the society against women, but forced to live within the structure of the social and religious set up. Once they are out of this limits, most of them are open and free, only to be returning to the same just before landing at the Riyadh airport. Watching Hollywood thrillers, listening to western music , filling their bedrooms with the posters of their idols. Fast cars, designer dress, the rendezvous at Cafes not known to the contemporary Saudi women are a part of the regular affair to these people. 

The men, especially young men are generally weak. While they wanted the adventurous life as in case of the any other men around the world., however, when it comes to taking decisions on their own,  they succumb to the decision of the family.

It does have some novel way of story telling. Each chapter is written as an internet posting on a yahoo group, released every week to the subscribers. Every chapter begins with a commentary on the readers response and the reply by the unnamed narrator.

Banned in Saudi Arabia immediately after the publication in Arabic, this book had an immediate international acclaim. Apart from the curiosity raised because of the controversy it created, this book has no literary value. The translator Marylin Booth caused another controversy charging the publisher and the author, interfering with her translation.

A teenage fiction, of love and despair. The fact that it has come out of the closed society of Saudi Arabia is the only differentiating fact about this book. Otherwise, this is a 'Chetan Bhagat' type of story from a different land. Plain and superficial , very ordinary.

The Girls of Riyadh ( 2005)

Rajaa Alsanea ( translated from Arabic by Marylin Booth and Rajaa Alsanea)

Penguin Books

304 Pages

Rs 295

More Read : Complete-Review , Guadian

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