I read this book as part of my quest to read a book set in every country in the world, choosing The Hostage because it was the only Yemeni novel available. While it's not awful, I wouldn't recommend it unless you're working on a similar challenge or have a strong interest in Yemen.
The Hostage is a novella weighing in at a little under 130 pages. The translation comes with two introductory essays, both of which are useful, perhaps essential, in understanding the text: the first discusses the historical background, and the second the author's life and the lack of Yemeni literature upon which to build. While I can't say much for the story itself, I really appreciate these editorial features: the publishers clearly put in the effort to present the book well, from providing us with background information to the inclusion of minimal but quite helpful footnotes.
As for the story itself, it's narrated by an unnamed boy, who is taken hostage to ensure his family's loyalty, a practice that in the 1940s was still common in the isolated and traditional Yemen, although outdated in most of the world. The adolescent boys in this position were treated as high-ranking servants, but were also much in demand from the palace women, who were isolated from adult men. The novel basically follows its narrator as he deals with the various people he encounters.
The Hostage lives up to most of the stereotypes English-speakers have about novels in translation: it's a fairly odd story without much momentum; the characters are a bit distant, despite the first-person narration; the pacing feels off, although there is a lot of dialogue; it's sometimes difficult to understand characters' reactions to events and the limitations of the setting (the narrator gets away with much more than one would expect, given his position). Scene-setting and exposition are minimal.
Whether this is a good book in the original language, I can't say, but in translation I found little to appreciate or enjoy. Only about two weeks after finishing, I'm having a hard time remembering much about it. Fortunately, it's short, and the historical background is interesting. Those with more of an academic or historical interest in Yemen or Arabic literature will likely appreciate it more.