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In the Kingdom of Men [Paperback]

Kim Barnes
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

28 Mar 2013

Behind every man is a woman with a story to tell ...

When Gin McPhee's husband Mason takes a job at the Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia, it unlocks a glamorous new lifestyle far from their humble beginnings in Oklahoma. It is a life of private clubs, dinner parties, and a houseboy at their disposal; all kept within the confines of the company compound.

But as Gin tires of the cocktails and an absent husband, the illusion of freedom is shattered, leaving boredom and curiosity for life beyond the gates - a world she soon finds is one of danger and corruption. And when a young woman is discovered dead in the bay and suspicions point to Mason, the one person she can trust is nowhere to be found.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (28 Mar 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099559277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099559276
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 7.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 512,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Barnes animates a magnetizing cast of cosmopolitan characters ... A veritable Mad Men of the desert, with the depth of a Graham Greene novel." (Booklist)

"A close inspection of how radically a life can be rescaled, and how quickly. With a protagonist like this, Barnes could have set her novel in a single room, and we'd keep reading." (Boston Globe)

"Drawn with skill and filled with evocative period detail ... [Gin] plumbs the depths of her new world with heart and courage." (Seattle Times)

"A real page-turner that's also beautifully written and researched." (Saga)

"With courage and zest, Kim Barnes's novel takes an intimate look at ... the rarified and harshly beautiful world of eastern Saudi Arabia ... Within these lyrical pages is a story well worth investigating." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Book Description

Love, betrayal and self-discovery - Mad Men meets Revolutionary Road set in 1960s Saudia Arabia

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Saudi Arabia, 1967 8 Nov 2012
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Virginia Mae McPhee leaves an impoverished childhood in Oklahoma to start a new life in Saudi Arabia with her husband. It is 1967 and the Arabian American Oil Company and the Saudi royal family together control the country's oil. For Virginia, joining the Aramco family means living in a gated compound where she has every luxury but no freedom.

"In the Kingdom of Men" is a compelling novel, that sucks you in from the very first sentences. Barnes effectively portrays the stifling lifestyle of the Americans in Saudi Arabia, as well us giving us glimpses into the lives of those who serve them, both Arab and foreign.

Although from the start we know that Virginia's husband has been blamed for the death of a young woman, this is not a murder mystery. Instead it is an enjoyable and nuanced portrait of a headstrong woman constrained by both the oppressive rules of the Saudi kingdom and the limits of her own marriage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying 31 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Saudi Arabia in the 1960s and the advent of the oil industry is a fascinating setting for a book. It gives the writer the opportunity to address the contrasts in wealth and poverty, all different types of racism, American imperialism, the rise of corporate power, and the role of women in society. Maybe this author tries to do too much, as although she touches on all these things, the book is ultimately unsatisfying.

Gin McPhee is a dirt poor young woman from Oklahoma who follows her husband to the Western enclave in Saudi Arabia and while he makes a living in the rapidly developing oil industry she tries to find herself in the shallow and mindless activities of the women. Mason is a man who tries to do what is right, which includes fighting for better conditions for the local people, and he will suffer for it because there is no place for his views in an ultimately corrupt and power hungry situation. Gin will find that her poor and deprived childhood prepares her well for the lack of freedom in Arabia. Where possible, she too tries to challenge the prevailing conditions and she too will suffer for it. Although Mason is not a major character he is a good and well meaning man but Gin's character is more childish as she challenges the mores of the time and place by acting in such a way that she deliberately offends people - she is difficult to like and you do rather wish at times that she would grow up and act like an adult.

The message of the book seems to be that everywhere is a kingdom ruled by men (in the 1960s that was very true) and that challenging the power structure is futile. What Gin and Mason try to do is unsuccessful and brings destruction in its wake for them and those with whom they associate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Kingdom of Men 2 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Gin McPhee grew up in poverty, with a strict grandfather who preached and taught her the consequences of sin. Almost to her disbelief, Gin finds herself escaping her life and married to Mason, a former prom king who gives up a scholarship to Oklahoma State when she finds herself pregnant and gets a job in oil. Houston is replaced by Saudi Arabia and Gin finds mending and making do replaced by living in the luxury compound run by the Arabian American Oil Company.

It is 1967, but things have changed very little in the desert. Although Gin has a lovely house, a gardener and a houseboy (the witty and intelligent Yash) she is unable to leave the compound on her own, as she suffers the strict rules imposed on a country where women are largely housebound and reliant on men. It seems to her she has escaped the limits of her childhood only to end in a gilded prison. With Mason away for weeks at a time, Gin relies on the company of Yash, her new found friend Ruthie and her new hobby of photography. Mason is determined to make his new job a success, but is uncomfortable about the way the Arab workers are treated and wants to improve their lives.

This is not a traditional mystery, but is more about the way Gin responds to the confines of her new life, as she attempts to understand her new home and the people there. There is Abdullah, Mason's driver, who is certainly capable of a much better role and feels resentment. Yash, who used to work for the Bodeen's, the couple who lived in the company house before Gin and Mason and is more aware of why they left so suddenly than anyone realises. Ruthie, wicked and lovable, Carlo the Italian photographer and Abdullah's beautiful sister, Nadia.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping & interesting story 20 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I got into this story right away. The book is well-researched, and the author captures the subject matter well even though she has not been to Saudi Arabia herself. The book is about Gin, the narrator. The most vivid parts are Gin's early tragic life when she's living in Oklahoma in a shack with an outhouse and a dirt floor. Her hillbilly background contrasts nicely with her new life in Saudi: big villa, domestic help, and a new set of flashy friends. Having such a contrast between her two lives draws you in and allows you to feel like you are living this life too. A well written gripping book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Identity Crisis
The back of this book suggest it is about a husband getting too deep into a corrupt company; the front of the cover suggests a man caught between two women. Read more
Published 5 months ago by HippolytaAMK
3.0 out of 5 stars SAUDI ARABIA - a luminous portrait of life in the desert
1960s Saudi Arabia. Author Kim Barnes has phenomenally captured the feel of the Kingdom of that period, all set in the wider context of the political world stage. Read more
Published 6 months ago by TripFiction
4.0 out of 5 stars A lucky find
I hadn't heard anything about this book before I spotted it in the huge Waterstone's store in Piccadilly, but thought it sounded interesting and decided to take a chance on it as... Read more
Published 9 months ago by James Brydon
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice in places but a bit bland overall
Gin and her husband Mason escape a hard life in rural Oklahoma and hope for more opportunities and wealth by moving to Saudi Arabia where Mason will work for an American Oil... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sarah Durston
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick "summer" read
Interesting in parts but lacking dramatic tension and some of the characters seemed a little exaggerated. Read more
Published 12 months ago by integrityexpected
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't know what genre the author was trying to write
Wow! This book starts so well. Ginny's voice as narrator is alive and engaging, her childhood is intriguing, there's the promise of a mystery concerning a drowned woman. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Julia Flyte
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea that gets lost in the endless desert sand
This book is based on an idea full of possibilities, it throws a young American married couple into the alien world of Saudi Arabia - albeit in a village created by the Aramco oil... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Elizabeth Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and politically-aware
This is an intelligent and politically-aware book set mainly in Saudi Arabia in 1967. The publisher's blurb which centres on the murder of a young woman is very misleading as this... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Roman Clodia
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look at 1960's Saudi Arabia
Gin McPhee is very pleased to escape her dirt poor and strict Methodist upbringing by getting pregnant at the first opportunity. Read more
Published 22 months ago by H. Ashford
1.0 out of 5 stars No page turner, a real let down
Surprised to see some good reviews here. This book starts off well but quickly descends into turgid description that's so heavy, the storyline detailed on the back cover is... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Scarlett
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