Book Review: Girls Of Riyadh


Girls of Riyadh, or (Banat Al-Riyadh) as it is better known in the Arab world is quite frankly, one of most intriguing books I have ever read so far. I was utterly amazed when I knew the book was translated to English so soon, considering it was released in the mid of 2005. Without any hesitation, I grabbed the book, bought it, and went home to read and to discover why it has caused such a stare in Saudi Arabia, and probably some parts of the Arab world. Surprisngly, I got so hooked that I finished in less than a week. 

The story is told through an anonymous, female narrator that presents her stories in a form of e-mail letters, and sends them in a weekly fashion to any Saudi e-mail address she can find. The tale is centered on four different Saudi girls that belong to the “Velvet Society” of the kingdom, in which all of them are very close friends and share their stories and events to each other, especially their romantic relationships. The narrator takes an interesting role of both describing the life in Saudi and conveying the story of those girls. Marriage, love, friendship, and feminism are the primary themes of this novel, and the script presents an accurate vision of the Saudi society, and what makes it so “unique”. The novel also does an excellent job in educating the reader about Saudi Arabia, whether it was about geography, authenticities, name of famous poets and singers, food, and (believe or not) underwear. The script has a nice blend of comedy and romance, but tragedy usually dominates the middle chapters as the reader gets hooked up with those girls and their fates. The writing style however, gets a little clunky and rough in some moments, where the format becomes a little bit stale. For example, sometimes, the narrative fixates on certain aspects for more than 4 pages long without advancing in the story whatsoever, and you wonder if it going anywhere or performing any purpose. Also, “Gulf Soap opera” fanatics might find the dialogue a little bit predictable and cliché. 

Girls of Riyadh is not a great book per se, but it is definitely a brave book, and deserves to be read for that reason. Offering an insider’s view of a closed society might be provocative enough, but to do so from the point of view of a woman, and a young, unmarried woman at that, is revolutionary indeed. It’s not Sex & The City but it is quite irresistible and thought provoking.



3 responses to this post.

  1. OMG! I sooo have to read that book! Thank you for sharing! 🙂


  2. @Maya

    You are most welcome. I hope you find it enjoyable.


  3. it is a good idea to look for book reviews first before buying an expensive book `


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