The main reason why I decided to read this book was the very nice book cover along with its feminine touch. Then, the interesting title, and since I don't know much about life in Saudi Arabia today, especially a women’s perspective of it, I decided to pick up Girls of Riyadh. I read a Khalil Gibran book a long time ago, and this novel sounded like good fun to me which totally opposed my initial beliefs about The Qur'an and general life in an orthodox Muslim country.
The most interesting thing was when I realized that this is Alsanea’s first novel. I was really curious to see how Rajaa, a nice and very well educated 25 year old Saudi girl, would paint life in Riyadh and how she would manage to "translate" her religion and everyday life to somebody who has no connection to it.
She does it in a masterful way.
The book follows the university life of four pretty, clever, young, members of Riyadh upper class society who are also childhood friends. The four girls represent an array of personalities. Michelle, half American- half Saudi, is the most modern and energetic out of four. Gamrah is described as "a prisoner of a house", Sadeem a "prisoner of a men,” and Lamees, "a prisoner of her vanity". But all four represent the real Saudi women society today. Describing their life stories, this young novelist touches on much more serious topics than you would expect by just reading the book cover. She showed great respect for Muslim tradition but, at the same time, is open to many topics that simply don't exist as problems in modern democratic countries like the USA (women's rights after divorce, marriage rights, women's education and job prospects in such a conservative country).
This was a really fun and interesting book that you will read with great joy.
A bold new voice from Saudi Arabia spins a fascinating Scheherazade-like tale of four young women attempting to navigate the narrow straits between love, desire, fulfillment, and Islamic tradition-for the first time, the hidden world of today's upper-class Saudi women is revealed by an insider.