Fragile minds, harsh realities

Book: Girls of Riyadh

Book: Girls of Riyadh

Author: Rajaa Alsanea

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Nthabisang Moreosele

I began reading this book with a negative attitude. Many Islamic writers depict their lives as dull, oppressed and claustrophobic.

But I was delightfully surprised by this little gem. It is superb. Though the lifestyle depicted in it is foreign to South African women, it shows similarities with women all over the world.

The book is about four teenagers who frequent the malls, are obsessed with clothes, make-up and their raging hormones. Boys are exotic creatures, at once annoying, but occupying an inordinate amount of their thoughts.

Like any teenagers, they have managed to use subterfuge to get around the tough rules and taboos that govern their lives.

They chafe at the restrictions, but look forward to marriage and children.

The four go to college, but one of them gets married to the envy of the others. Gamrah's ideas about romance, sex and marriage are shattered by an overeducated bully who prefers modern American women. She goes home disillusioned, abandoned, hurt and pregnant.

Sadeem crosses the boundaries of courtship with her fiancé who dumps her. Humiliated, she embarks on a dangerous liaison with an older diplomat that is mostly a figment of her imagination.

Her hero has feet of clay and wastes four years of her life spinning unlikely fairy tales to stem her hysteria. She grows up when he in turn dumps her for a virtuous woman with the right connections.

Lamees, the scatterbrain, successfully manages her love life, medical studies and marries a fellow doctor. Highly recommended.