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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street Hardcover – 28 Apr 1988

4.2 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (28 April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670821179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670821174
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 592,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Horrifyingly gripping. It urges the reader to suspend normal life entirely until the book is read.' Grace Ingoldby, Sunday Times

'A peculiar fear emanates from this narrative: I dread to think what it did to the writer herself.' Anita Brookner, Spectator

'A Middle Eastern Turn of the Screw with an insidious power to grip.' Robert Irwin, Time Out

'A memorably appalled and hellishly funny novel.' Christopher Wordsworth, Guardian

'A stunning Orwellian nightmare.' Literary Review

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the author of thirteen books , including A PLACE OF GREATER SAFETY, BEYOND BLACK, and the memoir GIVING UP THE GHOST. Her two most recent novels, WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UP THE BODIES have both been awarded The Man Booker Prize – an unprecedented achievement.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
With remarkable understatement, a fellow airline passenger tries to prepare Fran Shore for her life as an expatriate wife in Saudi Arabia. A cartographer by profession, she is told, "You're redundant. They don't have maps." As Mantel unfolds the action, and lack of action, which take place in the apartment complex and in the business community, Fran cannot help but try to create mental maps, to make sense of the culture that has enveloped her.
Bored and frustrated, she is unable to discover what is really happening in the "empty" flat upstairs, unable to understand the lives which her devoutly Muslim female neighbors accept as completely normal, and so overwhelmed that she wonders, "Am I visible?" And that, perhaps, is the point. She IS visible in a heavily veiled world, destined never to comprehend fully either the daily lives or culture of her hosts, a culture within which she has tried, unsuccessfully, to maintain her own values.
The ending of the novel is full of mystery, as much a mystery as the events Fran has encountered in the eight months she has spent on Ghazzah Street. She is forced to accept at last the comment of an Arab acquaintance, "The Kindgom is not a logical world, and besides, logic is not an ornament of young ladies." Mary Whipple
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Never lived in the Middle East. Spent six months traversing it; Iraq; Iran; Afghanistan plus Turkey but I have never lived there. I only know one person who actually lived in Saudi and he lived by himself on an expat compound. I don’t think he liked it much but he learned his trade there and made enough money to buy a house when he returned. My friend Susan has spent most of her adult life working in the Middle East . . . but never Saudi . . .

This novel is a tour de force. Hilary Mantel lived in Jeddah for four years and wrote Eight Months on Ghazzah Street only when she got home to London. She is quoted in an interview in the Guardian as saying that the day she flew out of Saudi was the happiest day of her life.
The novel is about a young English couple who move to Saudi to work and make more money than they could realistically make anywhere else. Frances and her husband, Andrew, are not able to get into one of the foreigners' compounds when he goes to work on a new ministry building in Jeddah and instead are installed in a company flat in an apartment block along one of the main roads. On her very first day Andrew, who had arrived three months earlier, locks her into the apartment when he goes out to the site in the morning for her own protection. Her sense of isolation and alienation become palpable with the description of her endless days of nothingness. Her choices seem to be between staying in a blank apartment watching Saudi religious television or venturing outside into the blazing heat where she has to fend off the unreconstructed attitudes, leers and menacing catcalls of men driving by who consider unveiled Western women to be ‘available’.
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This book creeps up on you. Just as you are ready to settle on your settee with a cup of coffee and enjoy the trials and tribulations of a Brit abroad, bam! the book starts tackling some of the most important issues of debate for our modern times: religion and how fundamentalism works, the place of woman in society, relations between the West and the East, foreign policies and the Gulf States....the list goes on. This book is pure dynamite. The prose is well written and evokes the claustrophobic atmosphere of a fundamentalist Muslim country like Saudi Arabia. The dialogue is very close to how it would have been in a real situation. We have the perceptive eye and ear of the narrator to give us all the detail we need to create a mental picture of the events. We have enough development of the characters to allow empathy or luck thereof, depending...There is a plot so entwined with the character development that it has you gripped by the throat, you are convinced these characters are real, these events are real, this actually happened to a person. The twists and turns, the little gem-like gimmicks of the crafty writer to entice us in the mystery of the plot and keep us page-turning are all there - she reminded me of Patricia Highsmith at times, in intent if not in style.
And the most haunting final coup de grace: the very first page, the date on the company memo...am not going to spoil the book for you but please read it and pay attention to it - then relate it back to the last chapter once you have read it....a terrible thought will dawn on you...poor Frances and Andrew...
Hilary Mantel delivers in spades. I thought her short stories were brilliant, now I find her novels breathtaking. I will keep on savouring her every written word. A must read, thoroughly recommended if you like your mystery novels with suspense, good plot and characterisation.
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Ms Mantel's books are always brilliant, so far in my reading of her works I have always been glued to the pages with her intriguing story telling and characters. This book is no exception; she captures the mix of both apathy, as in the state of mind of Frances the ex-pat's wife, and a mystery plot unravel-ling under her nose. The psychology of Frances' dilemma, as she worries about her sanity and the indifference of her husband to her efforts to communicate her anxieties are concerning and worrying. Is she imagining it? Are her feelings and the signs she has seen of surreptitious behaviour, which may be illigal, in the block of flats where they live, real or imaginary? Why do the business men who are just about operating within the law so anxious to keep her on ignorance and are so dismissive of of her concerns. Are the young women in the flats. a young bride from Pakistan and a Saudi Arabian wife, what they seem? The plot is even more intriguing as the background is the very different culture of a kingdom in the middle east where rules and expectations effecting women are extreme in western eyes. The background is misogynistic and a free thinking educated woman is captured like a bird in a cage in this very different culture. The restrictions handicap her but her determination and strength allow her to continue despite veils of cover, both physical and metaphysical. Her husband is very much a background character with a rather detached and obsessed nature, determined to succeed in a project in a climate which can be unforgiving and harsh. Somehow, I do not identify with her support and staying with him; it is understood that many wives do not stay the distance in the climate and restrictive life style. But the steel like character and intelligence of Frances are intriguing. The book left me with a feeling of life being inconclusive, but then I suppose every chapter of someone's life has no ending as the story is always continuous.
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