By the time I finished writing this review I came to conclusion that I DISLIKE the book A LOT.
The description of the book intrigued me enough to order the book right away and have it shipped to Saud Arabia. As it turns out the description is highly exaggerated!!
I am not a lesbian and have no problems with people engaging in homosexual activities. The main reason I bought the book is that I thought it would offer an upclose glimpse on a highly taboo topic in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. I don't claim total knowledge of a so called "lesbian world" in Saudi Arabia but I feel comfortable in saying that my knowledge triumphs the author's. (I think any Saudi female has more knowledge about lesbians that the author).
I found myself struggling to read the 276 pages book or even get into in. The author uses way too many metaphors and clichés for my taste and the story has no plot or conflict. At first I blamed the translation and decided to search for the book in its original language. I googled the book and to no surprise found it received a wave of criticism since its release in 2006. The book is supposedly banned in Saudi Arabia and in other gulf countries (but this has not been confirmed). Finally, I did find a downloadable version.
Little by little I abandoned the English version and stayed with the Arabic one, which also contained the exact metaphors. I found it more acceptable to read it in Arabic probably because am used to such metaphors by some Arab writers, who consider using metaphor an art (the more the merrier).
The book does not give enough details to be considered an erotic novel (as some reviewers describe it). Some homophobes found the little vague details disgusting and refused to continue reading the book. (I guess seeing people's reactions are more valuable than the work itself)
Sadly, many Saudi authors like Siba and Rajaa Al-Sane (Girls from Riyadh) tend to write about cultural taboos while sticking it to minority groups (Shia, elite, biracial, tribes, western educated,... etc). End result is that readers judge the characters according to their minority status thus turn these works of fiction into evidence rather than eye openers. Unfortunately, in Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of misconceptions about Shia, especially those from the eastern region; the book succeeds in adding even more misconception about them.
The author feeds on stereotype of the "average Joe" in Saudi Arabia: in no particular order (again these are stereotypes and do not represent my views)
*Shias are deviant and lack morality (their women sleep with men and women...).
*Lesbians lack religion, morals, family values and are heavily exposed to the corrupt western world.
* Shia are groups who refuse to assimilate, have noloyalty to the country and cry wolf every now and then to gain sympathy from the world .
Another thing I did not like is the excessive amount of detail-less stories that jump from one time zone to the other. For example the author attempts to write about the lesbian world yet excludes the lesbian scene in schools, universities, dormitories and social gatherings. ( The so-called lesbian scene in not really hidden as one Amazon reviewer suggests though it might be for a non-Saudi Male). In one chapter the author comes home from school and is surrounded by her mother and other women. They strip her naked, pull her lags apart and disfigure her with a nail filer (not fingernails as translated into English). The mother then stuffs a piece of flesh in a handkerchief and throws it in a waste bag (What was that about? More details PLEASE!!! This is something unheard of in Saudi Arabia!!) In another chapter the author makes reference to her father. He is released from Jail, makes many babies with the mom and then we don't hear of him again. What happened to the male dominant society? why doesn't the father have a voice?
Moral of the review: Remove the metaphors and clichés and all you will have is a very short pointless story.
I wouldn't be surprised if the author did not turn out to be from Qateef, Shia or even a girl.
Saudi Author Zainab Hifny does a far superior job describing taboo in the Saudi Arabia (including the so-called "lesbian world" ... too bad her books are not translated into other languages.
****Tips on how to sell your book: write about women and sex in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Islam... etc) If you're lucky the book will get banned and the author will reach fame in a matter of few days .Someone will want to translate you book and if you're a female, women's magazines will writer seller reviews!!!***