Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 4 June 2020

Book Review: Books from the Middle East

Some more titles ticked off from my round the world reading challenge.

These are two more titles from the charity book club  ShelterBox which I wrote more about in my last book review post.  

 The Pact We Made by Layla Alammar  ****

Beautifully written debut novel about a wealthy young Kuwaiti woman struggling with a burgeoning anxiety disorder, who is being put under pressure from her mother to marry before she turns 30 but who only wants to escape her seemingly perfect life and live life on her own terms.   However she can't even leave the country without her father's permission. 

This is a really interesting insight into a way of life where traiditon and modern living are clashing. Very enjoyable read.


Celestial Bodies by  Jokha Alharthi ****

Set in Oman, this is the story of three sisters and their journey to get married - another story of traditional values in a modern world.  Beautifully written, it won the International Booker Prize in 2019.

When I was in my twenties I lived for a short while in Dubai and had the privilege once of being invited to a local wedding where I sat with the women as the bride was being painted wiht henna.  She was to be the fourth wife of a local sheikh which I found shocking - not sure if that's still a practice.   The older women were very curious about my freckles and wanted to examine my skin, while I was equally curious about being able to meet them without their face coverings and the traditions around the wedding but I was very young and didn't have the language to ask many questions.   

This book answers some of those questions - it is a behind the scenes look at an Arabic way of life and the  expectations on young women in that world. 


  1. Very interesting.
    When I was a teenager I was invited with the family to a foreign wedding. At the time it wasn't the done thing and we felt very out of place and were looked at quite strangely, but now cultures intermingle and we all get to see different ways of doing things.

    1. It's great that times have changed and we can enjoy the different cultures now .

  2. Hi Fil - these sound very interesting ... I went to a wedding here in England and felt the same way ... unsure of what questions etc - wish I'd had more knowledge. Our film society was bringing this sort of film to us ... I hope we can get back to them sometime soon - so much to learn and understand about other cultures. Take care and stay safe - Hilary

    1. We need more independent cinemas to show these sort of films don't we - we've recently had a community cinema started and they're just the primary school hall once a month, but goodness knows when they'll get back again either.


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