Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was definitely fun reading and maybe even truthful to some extent, but definitely sensationalistic. I have heard that stories of a similar vein do in fact happen in this part of the world. A part of the world that is rich in traditions and has managed to keep their way of life intact despite the encroachment of technology and modernity. Yet it is also a world rife with double standards and inequality.
"The Velvet Class" is Saudi Arabia's uper class. These people live in palaces and have drivers chauffer them to where ever they wish to travel. Some families own houses in more than one continent. A definite minority and definitely not the majority. The story is framed in a series of emails that supposedly caused a major uproar and controversy. The four girls spoken about are Gamra, Sadeem, Lamees and Michelle. These four girls walk a fine line between modernity and tradition, not an easy thing to do.
The story starts out with Gamra getting married. She is joyous that this is the best night of her life. Yet, she is not the center of attention. Sadeem is shown to be more beautiful and the one the match makers are after. She even outshines the bride. Gamrah should be lucky but there is only one problem he is not interested in Gamrah whatsoever. Turns out her bride has a another girlfriend that he is in love with. After Gamrah gets pregnant with this guy. He divorces her and sends her back to Riyadh in humiliation. She must raise the baby on her own.
Sadeem gets engaged to Waleed and things are going really good for a while, but hold on good things never last. After they get engaged and sign the contract, which makes them legally maried. None the less he convinces her to go a little too far. Sadeem thought that just because she acceded to his request he would be good to hear. No such luck, Waleed breaks off the relationship which devastates Sadeem. After the break up she is so devastated that she fails all her classes and goes to London to try and forget. On the way back she runs into Firas who seems like the best thing in the world but ends up just stringing her along. Her father dies in the3 course of things and she ends up going to her aunt's house quite against her will. Tariq her cousin looks after her rather well. While Sadeem may not be the hapiest camper in the world she does end up achieving some measure of happiness.
Lamies is smart but also a trouble maker. She smuggles in secular videos to her class and gets a teacher to help hide them, She is not that dedicated to her studies, while her her sister Tamadour is a total grade grubber. Sghe ends up making friends with Jumana, a Shiite. Believe me I thought relations between Arab and Jew were bad. Sunnis and Shiite's do not like or trust each other. Sunnis beleive that Shiite's will poison their food just for the fun of it. Jews say the same things about Palestinians in Israel and their are Islamic verses waring against the treacheries of the Jews.
Michelle is half Arabian and Half American. Rather free spirited doing ok in school. Shje goes to San Francisco a bit and enjoys it but on a summer break they decide to move into Dubai which ends up being a good thing. She gets a job in the media and is really independent from men.
One will be surprised at the contradictions and deceptions. Woman have no rights. They must rely on a father or husband's permission to travel. They cannot inherit property it seems. Men cruise by in ex[pensive cars and SUV's and number girl for discreet conversation. Marriage partners will check out each others phone bill 6 months prior to marriage. Courtship consists of talking over the phone.
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