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The Gulf Between Us [Kindle Edition]

Geraldine Bedell
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Pride and Prejudice in the Arabian Gulf?



For most people, being a single mother to three boys (two of them teenagers), sorting out your feelings for an ex-boyfriend who's now an international film star, pacifying an elderly father who keeps asking why you're not married, tolerating your bigoted brother, while keeping out of the way of a dismissive film producer who seems to have made a mission out of annoying you, would be quite enough of a challenge.



Annie Lester is not only trying to tackle all this - she's also doing it in the small Gulf emirate of Hawar where, in the summer of 2002, the impact of America's decision to invade Iraq is just beginning to be felt.



The Gulf Between Us is a deliciously written novel about disappointment, hope and surviving in a world of conflicting values by the author of The Handmade House and Observer journalist Geraldine Bedell.



'Politics and passion make for combustion in this acutely observed and often very funny novel' The Times



'Geraldine Bedell invites us straight into the beating heart of family life . . . a delicious novel' Meg Rosoff



Praise for The Handmade House



'A warm, funny, satisfying book' India Knight


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Review

Geraldine Bedell invites us straight into the beating heart of familylife . . . a delicious novel (Meg Rosoff)

Bedell has a light, thoughtful tough when it comes to translating the emotions of a family in crisis, through a lead character who is both warm and funny...fresh...keeps you turning the pages (Evening Standard)

Bedell skilfully sketches the communities of the Gulf - western, Arab, Asian - and their internal stratifications of class, status and tribe. She is as good on human commonalities as she is at communal distinctions...offers a vivid portrait of a family...gripping...light, finely observed, funny and reflective (Guardian)

Politics and passion make for combustion in this acutely observed and often very funny novel (The Times)

Bedell writes amusingly and convincingly about family life, while her choice of location gives the novel an interesting angle (Daily Mail)

A sensitive and intelligent enquiry into prejudice, family, belief, loyalty and love in a very peculiar corner of the 21st century (Independent)

About the Author

Geraldine Bedell is an author and journalist. She lives in London with her husband and four children. The Handmade House was published by Penguin in 2005.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tensions in the Gulf 5 April 2009
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The Gulf of the title symbolizes many aspects of this novel:

1. The location of the novel is in a Gulf emirate of Hawar, where the author, according to the acknowledgments, has spent much time. (A niggle: Hawar is a real place, but aspects of it - together with its politicians - appear to have been to some extent invented: according to Google, it is not an independent emirate, but a part of what had been the emirate of Bahrein, which had became a kingdom in 2002. A reference to the Bali bombing locates the setting round about October 2002, just before the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003. I wish she had given the place another name. More googling suggests that the names she gives to some parts of Hawar may have been taken from places in Oman, North Yemen, Abu Dhabi and even Pakistan. Disconcerting.)

2. There is a gulf between the British expatriate characters in the book and the Hawaris, accentuated by the imminence of the war which was so widely expected. The narrator of the novel, the widowed Annie Lester, generally likes the Hawaris (except one or two of them) and realizes, both temperamentally and also from a practical point of view, that the expatriates should respect their culture.

3. There is a gulf between Annie and her brother and sister-in-law, who are visitors from England, and whose tactless and dismissive comments about Arabs set Annie's teeth on edge. Her brother Chris is a thoroughly unpleasant representative of colonial arrogance and bigotry - a rare type among his age group by 2002, I should think. (Annie seems to be in her forties.)

4. The central part of the story is about the gulf between homosexuals and heterosexuals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started well but faded badly 25 Sept. 2009
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed the first third of this book but became quite irritated as it went on. The early descriptions of life as an ex-pat in a small Gulf State are interesting but then the author falls between several stools. There is her input on life in the Middle East as a mid-forties single mother of three sons with a possible war looming and then her description of what it is like to discover that one son is gay, and not only gay but involved in a very unwise relationship. Her relatives are not believable, her brother and his wife are obnoxious (she missed a point here as she should have made her brother a member of the BNP!) Then she throws in a chick-litish romance between her heroine and a Sean Connery/Piers Brosnan/James Bond look-alike movie star and all credibility vanished. It is a pity as the author might have a very good book in her as she clearly knows the area that she is writing about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Homosexuality versus Arab conservatism 30 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Geraldine Beddell goes into territory where not many writers have dared to venture since Salman Rushdie's little "hiccup" in 1989. She tackles her main theme almost entirely from the viewpoint of the English mother whose teenage son comes out as gay at his brother's wedding in the Gulf and is later found to be the boyfriend of a senior member of the Ruling Dynasty. And the year is 2002 with America poised to invade Iraq.

The fictional island of Hawar is a very thinly disguised Bahrain (down to place names and a reviled former British head of security). Beddell makes more of an effort to hide the inspiration for the vain and nervous English movie actor who sweeps our heroine off her feet (Hugh Grant came rapidly to mind).

The Gulf Between Us is a pleasing and highly readable mix of family drama and romantic comedy, with a serious subtext about relations between liberal Westerners and conservative Muslims in one of Arabia's "archaic hereditary dictatorships" (spot on, Geraldine!). She includes some gossip about another named Arabian head of state which is bold of her and possibly tactless.

As one who has lived in the Gulf and dallied with the locals (and written about it), I would say that Beddell does eloquent justice to the collision of values when East meets West. She handles a large cast of characters (perhaps a bit too large) with great dexterity and brings her story to a delightfully improbable end. Expats - even gay expats - live happily ever after, but no Arab is allowed to be glad to be gay. Will they ever be? Fat chance.

[The reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN, another novel that deals with sexual relations between Arabs and Westerners]
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