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In the Kingdom of Men Paperback – 28 Mar 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (28 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099559277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099559276
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 438,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Nov 2012
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 By Anne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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By G. Cook VINE VOICE on 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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