Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Girls of Riyadh- Reviewed

For the uninitiated, it’s the book by Rajaa Alsanea that I am talking about. If there’s anything else you were thinking then emm.... Poof! I sense your disappointment. Hehe. Well rest assured reading any further is not going to be worth your while :P

In my opinion, what Girls of Riyadh did to Saudi Arabia is the exact same as what Slumdog Millionaire did to India.....Brought in a whole lot of limelight but sadly, for all the wrong reasons as they both addressed a class of people that the majority thought as inconvenient truths, at best ignored if not effectively concealed. *Course India’s case not possible yaara...I mean where will you hide’s all right there bang on for your swaagat in plain view from the Raashtreeya hawaai addaa!*

Yes yes focus. Haa so let me tell you I have never been more excited about reading a book as I was about this one. Firstly, because it’s about a set of people who live just four hours away from the place I was brought up *Love thy neighbour and all.... you know na how it is!*
And secondly, the controversy surrounding it and a whole 3 year ban it faced in Saudi Arabia. So naturally you start to think ki yaar ye hai kya cheez!

Right so the book borrowed *duh!* and me all set to read, the first three quarter of the book, let me tell you was beyond awesome. A perfect narrative, an instant connect, little cute honest love stories and most importantly the sense of elation I felt at knowing stuff others might take a while to grasp *believe me it rarely everrrrr happens with me, so kindly put up as I gloattt*. All was in order, until a terrible thing happened.*sad eyes*
I fell asleep.

And even in my sleep, I kept imagining what may happen further in the book to the main characters as the story progresses.

Next dayyyyyyyyyyy unfortunately, nothing thereon ever took off. The smooth ride so far went all glub glub glub underwater.

The book is about four girls who are all starry eyed at the thought of louuuuve. The story revolves around their love lives set in the backdrop of Arabian customs and practices that are stringent to say the least.

The positive of the book is the format of writing; as in a narrator who sends weekly emails to random people telling the real stories of four of her friends. I thought the idea was pretty unique. Also, the characters of all girls are very likeable and not particularly *oh I think I broke my nail* kinda vain and stoopid.

The downside however is the fact that there are just wayyyy too many make ups and break ups so by the end you get confused as to who was with whom as suddenly people from the past start to pop up in the plot.

Also, a lot of parts in the story seemed like more than being bold about the truth of society, it was trying to be loud and sensationalise for the sake of striking as different, by blaring the pitfalls and extremist views.
For instance if one girl liked to wear the abaaya/ burkha, it was covered in a sentence; but if another thought it ugly, 2 pages were expressly devoted to that. Know what I mean?

Another thing was the end, which I thought was extremely abrupt, without giving a logical conclusion as to what happened about the girls, given the idea itself was to talk of their love life. It almost gave the impression like the author got really bored and wanted to end it at the earliest.

One thing I couldn’t follow though was the character traits of all the men in the story. They seemed designed without a backbone, extremely fickle, hugely dependent on family ties and too afraid to stand up for their love without adequate reason. All of them! Strange no?

On the whole, a good read, a unique story....the culture part though needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as it seemed a little biased for hype.

P.S. - If you happen to be a girl nursing a fresh break up, this one isn’t for you my dear, cos it may make you dislike men in general for long, and particularly men in Riyadh for life. :-)


Anonymous said...

Sigh.....I do not like complicated love stories and especially spineless characters. The narration style does seem interesting as you said....and I think men over there are brought up in such an atmosphere where they adhere to the rules of the clan or face dire consequences. They are systematically brainwashed into believing that it is sin to stand up for their own choices.

I am not picking up this one this year for sure ;)

Sadiya Merchant said...

yeah bt d 'dire consequences' part is exctly wat i dont d grl wont b accepted fr a while....i mean BIG DEAL!

aha fr a yr!! ouch! :P

Anonymous said...

Always love a good book review. Found you on 20sb. Will follow! :)

Anonymous said...

U can say Ouch again :P :P .....I haven't seen or read Slumdog Millionaire yet...don even plan to :D

cloud nine said...

Living right now in Saudi Arabia,i can feel what the book says...tsk...tsk...It is indeed a disaster to be stuck here, desert by climate and desert by love and emotions:(Nice write up Sadia...Keep going!!!

Anonymous said...

Very honest and great review.. :)

I read QA (by Vikas Swaroop on which Slumdog Millionaire is based), I totally I agree with your statement "In my opinion, what Girls of Riyadh did to Saudi Arabia is the exact same as what Slumdog Millionaire did to India."

Sadiya Merchant said...

@ caity- hie!! glad u liked it....jus lukd up ur blog....wish u all d very best wid ur very inspirin :)

@ kamikaze- lol...wise decision yaar....i saw it in d theatre n it was soooo cccccold! was freezin itnaaaa ki i was pretty much dyin to get out of dere! din even wait fr d 'oscar winnin song' wich was at d end

@ cloudnine- u mustttt read d book den! hav lived dere bt as a kid so d love part dint really figure...btw i cant access ur webpage nemore :(((
gues too many widgets so it gets stuckk! :((

@ sayedkhadri- thnx so muchhh! d review xpert is sayin datt! wowwieee! sab happiness ke bubbles phoot rahe hai around me nw.
n hey pls get d 'follow' feature on ur blog! :)

Haddock said...

All said and done, Slumdog Mil was a well made movie, which none of our Indian producers or directors had the guts to make.
All (including Amitabh Bachan) wanted to sweep it under the carpet.

Purba said...

Interesting review Sadiya, not sure whether I'd read the book though.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, whether wordpress supports follow feature..
But you can subscribe to my blog via 'Email Subscription' :)

Md. Muddassir Shah said...

Very Sadiya-ish review :)
well done

Sadiya Merchant said...

@ haddock- well made no doubt, bt i don think indian producers nt takin it up had much to do wid no guts....its jus sumthin d average indian movie goer is not interested in....also i doubt it wud hav earned d same recognition. a lot many a.r.rehman numbers r better dan jai ho in my opinion.

@ purba- hehe judgin frm ur write ups so far, id say dis is d kind of book u shud probably catch up wid wen d feminist in u is runnin out of steam ;)

@ sayedkhadri- noooooo. follow feature is dere. plsss do get it! i dont subscribe to blogs as a lot of spam cums wid it....m sure manyyyy ppl wil follow u...will b d frst...aap lagaiye to sahiii!
here's d link -

@ muddassir- emm now wat is dat supposed to mean!
for the well done part, its thnk u :)

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meerasrajan said...

Yeah I have read this book. First time I have read something about the middle east especially Saudi that is not written by an American..! Many of the issues seemed very similar to India. Meeting boyfriends in friends houses for example- in India we may do it to avoid gossip and in Saudi probably to avoid more serious repercussions. And well the men they are very much like our Indian men - mostly spineless creatures using family as an excuse to back out of a relationship

Sidrah said...

I already like this book =D
I want to read!
Is it like Thousand Splendid Suns?

Nice review =)

Sadiya Merchant said...

@ meerasrajan- hehe nooooooo indian men r so much least d types i kno deserve more credit *blush blush*

@ sidrah- u musttt read it den!
i havent read a thousand splendid suns bt did catch d review sometime baq....d culture part may b similar bt d plot i think is a littl more serious dan dis one...only guessin haa!

btw the kite runner- bestttt besttttt bestttt book ever!!!!!

Md. Muddassir Shah said...

Kite runner is one of the best books I read and I dare not review it :)

Sadiya Merchant said...

@ muddassir- AGREEE!!! AGREEEE! AGREEE!
anythin i say abt it wud fall shrt to xpress its awesomeness.

Anonymous said...

totally agree with Muddasir and You.. Kite Runner is - one of the best book I read.. and also I loved his 'Thousand Splendid Suns'.

Manpreet Kaur said...

very nice blog dear... :D good post

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Sadiya Merchant said...

@ sayedkhadri- k i will surely read it den! :)

@ manpreet- thnx!

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The Arab Season said...

I am an author and many of my new readers have compared my debut novel (The Arab Season) to girls of Riyadh. I would appreciate if you read the opening chapter and share your thoughts on it with me.

Sadiya Merchant said...

@ the arab season- sure! do send me d link for it n will get baq to u.
gud luck wid d book :)

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Saad Ali said...

Another great article. I like that you are very honest and direct to the point.

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