(Cross posted from Bookreviews)
Here’s what we’ll do: we’ll take Sex and the City. Replace New York with Riyadh. Take out the American culture and in it’s place, let’s have the culture of the elite classes of Saudi. And the 4 gorgeous ladies? That would be 4 University students from Riyadh – Gamrah, Michelle, Sadeem and Lamees. What do you get now? Right. Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea.
Gamrah is the less ambitious of the four. She gets married to a seemingly nice boy, and has this dream of the perfect wedded life, starting with their honeymoon in Italy. Does her dream come true? Is marriage all that it’s cracked up to be, for Gamrah?
The beautiful Sadeem is Gamrah’s best friend, a management student and is soon engaged to be married to a handsome, almost Prince Charming like Waleed. Her courtship starts off like a fairy tale, but will it end in a nightmare? Did she get too carried away in her affections for Waleed?
Michelle is Mashael Al-Abdulrahman’s pet name. She is the least conservative of the four, owing to the fact that her mother was American. She refuses to get pulled into the constricted perspectives and lifestyles of the other girls in the University and tries to be the same she would have been, had she been in America. Would she fall in love with a Saudi boy, who can adjust with her open mindedness? Will it work?
Lamees is a straight-As student and is on her way to becoming a doctor. She’s the tom-boy of the four, smuggling video tapes of movies to school (banned by law). After a particularly bad incident involving her friend’s brother, she retreats into herself. She then meets Nizar, a fellow trainee at a hospital and Cupid strikes. Does Lamees get the fairy tale ending that the other girls so wanted?
Girls of Riyadh would probably fall under the chic-lit genre. And that’s not such a bad thing, no. The prose is effortless and what I enjoyed personally was the little glimpses we get into the culture itself. It’s such a low cost way to travel to Saudi, isn’t it? Personally, once in a while, I end up craving such books when I’m in middle of some heavy reading like Coelho or Kafka. Something to take my mind off, something easy-going and smooth.
Pick up the book if you want a soap opera’ish story, with a couple of twists and turns. If you’re a culture aficionado like me, you’ll enjoy it. Only thing to remember? Chic-lit.