Author: Rajaa Alsanea
Genre: Memoir/Contemporary/Novel based on a true story
Publisher: Penguin Press
My Rating: 4/5 (Worth a read; gives a good insight into the Saudi culture)
Raaja Alsanea boldy chose to expose the hidden world of Saudi women through her book Banat al Riyadh (in Arabic) which is actually a collection of emails. The book caused a sensation in Saudi Arabia and it was immediately banned there but the English translations of the same book was made available from Jan 2008...
Girls of Riyadh is a story about 4 young women who are the best of friends and are from upper-class Saudi families. They study in universities and medical schools in Riyadh/San Fransisco/Chicago but eventually return back to Riyadh. Even though they are exposed to the modern outlook, they still cannot escape the deep-rooted oppresive traditions of the religiously-dominated-and-conservative Saudi society. Yet they fall in love, have affairs, lost opportunities and broken hearts just like any other girl in other parts of the world..
The book is very fast paced, engaging and quite similar to the 'Sex and the City' type drama, So I won't get into the details of the plot; am sure you already have got an idea of it :) Some of the reviews say that the life of the Saudi girls represented in the book is way too far from the reality. Nevertheless, it does give a big picture of the life out there and it is un-imaginable! Every time I read a book about middle east, I always thank my stars that I was born here in India and I am so glad that I live my life on my own terms and I have my freedom of speech, thought and expression!
Though the novel cannot be regarded as a good literary piece, the small peek into the fascinating culture of the Arab world is definitely worth a read!