EIGHT MONTHS ON GHAZZAH STREET: Hilary Mantel

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EIGHT MONTHS ON GHAZZAH STREET: Hilary Mantel

EIGHT MONTHS ON GHAZZAH STREET: Hilary Mantel

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This novel, by the same author who recently won the Man Booker Prize, details the tension-filled life on a British woman who moves to Jeddah, Saudia Arabia with her husband. Entre el gótico más sofocante y claustrofóbico, y el thriller de lo más actual, a pesar de que es una novela de 1988, en esta su tercera obra, Hilary Mantel retrata con maestria los intentos de una mujer occidental por encajar de alguna forma en la sociedad saudí ya que se ve obligada a vivir alli durante un tiempo debido al trabajo de su marido. It may have been poor editing; perhaps at some point the book was going to be written in the present and when it was reworked, some stuff got by.

An unspeaking customs official had emptied the cigarettes from his packet of 20 and was slitting open each one, sifting the tobacco with lifted fingers, and sniffing it from time to time like some 18th-century dandy. page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. It's through Frances' talks with these women that issues of veiling, religion and patriarchy are discussed, rehearsing all sides of the debate. Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) is the third novel by English author Dame Hilary Mantel, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012.As her days empty of certainty and purpose, her life becomes a blank -- waiting to be filled by violence and disaster. Andrew, a civil engineer, and Frances met and married in Africa but come to Jeddah- -a place of blinding heat, ugly buildings, and underlying menace- -when Andrew accepts a job with an international construction company. The regime is corrupt and harsh, the expatriates are hard-drinking money-grubbers, and her Muslim neighbours are secretive and watchful. The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. At the beginning of the book, Andrew’s contract is coming to an end and he has not found other employment.

The build up of tension and the oscillation between the narrator thinking that dark deeds are taking place all around her to feeling that it's all in her mind is very finely done. My husband, our two young sons and I lived in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from 1983 to 1991, almost the same time-frame as Hillary Mantel lived in Jeddah on the western side. Andrew says that she is imagining it, though others suggest that the Deputy Minister, who allegedly owns the building, may be using it for a love nest. I have lived in countries in which strict sex segregation is practiced, and, frankly, I did not find it to be a problem. Officially, like a lot of other things (alcohol and extramarital sex being two other obvious examples) bribery does not exist but it clearly does.Yasmin, though Pakistani, is very defensive of the Saudis, while her husband is a sleazy player of some kind. These problems include alcohol (brew your own), getting things done (be patient), the current Saudi financial crisis, which means that the company and its employees are not getting paid (be patient) and a variety of practical issues that Frances and Andrew find it difficult in adapting to. Frances’ struggles are typical of everyone in my Peace Corps group who arrived “in country” to find we would be working mostly in jobs in the government that would “help” the “regime. But journalists, because of their transient status, can never experience the texture of life: that daily blend of flatness and fear, the feeling that, though nothing seems to be happening, events are forming up in the shadows. Plus, ever since reading the original edition of Robert Lacey’s Inside The Kingdom (link is to the newer version) I’ve been fascinated by Saudi Arabia.

I thought it would be interesting to follow the author on her discoveries through living in Saudi Arabia understanding that this was a work of fiction. Further discussion reveals that one of their female British expat friends who is being divorced by her British husband (for having an affair) is now living in poverty with her children. As the months pass, Frances tries to adjust to a society where women are treated as inferiors and the slightest infraction of Islamic law can lead to imprisonment, or worse. A chilling portrait of an authoritarian society as a young Englishwoman moves with her husband into a Saudi Arabian neighborhood and finds murder lurking behind the shuttered windows and closed doors. I remember the hostile sunshine, the barren line of hills, the absence of birdsong and the distant line of the freeway: the tiny, silent cars moving from somewhere to somewhere, leaving me behind with my journal.

The unlikeable characters weren’t a problem for me, because there was enough other interest and good writing. More telling is the experience of a reporter colleague of mine who had spent much more time there and knew it well. I had a very good time talking with the women, and learned a great deal from them (without having to deal with flirting, football scores, or dirty jokes). As time goes on, you meet people and develop a life, but underneath is the arbitrary and Kafka-esque nature of expat life in Saudi Arabia, where rumor runs rife in the absence of real information.

Additionally, I didn’t know if the narrator was a genuine alter-ego of the author (whose experiences the book mirrors) or if she was meant to come across as a self-righteous snob. I had met my Muslim neighbours; women in seclusion speak, sometimes, with a freedom their men don't possess. admits, after a few bootleg drinks, that he'd rather have his wife and children brought up in the controlled environment of Saudi Arabia than in a Western culture which decreases his control over them.The flat directly above Frances and Andrew is supposedly empty, but Frances hears sounds of life there. As Frances gets to know her neighbours, particularly Yasmin who she sees more of initially, she also comes to wonder about that fourth flat – as she hears whispers and footsteps coming from there – and a shrouded figure disappearing upstairs.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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