For the past few years, I have mostly read books that were either comedic, thriller or contemporary, so the book ‘Girls of Riyadh’ by Rajaa Alsanea was quite a different type of book for me and it had a huge impact on me, which changed me in a better way.
The novel describes the relationship between men and women in Saudi Arabia and tells the story of four college-age friends, girls looking for love but stymied by a system that allows them only limited freedom and has very specific expectations and demands. There’s little contact between men and women, especially single teens and adults, but modern technology has changed that a bit, leading to young men trying everything to get women to take down their mobile numbers.
The internet is also a new medium that can’t contain women and their thoughts like the old system could, and the anonymous narrator of the novel takes advantage of that; she presents her stories in the form of e-mails that she sends out weekly to any Saudi address she can find.
I got attached to this book the moment I started reading it as it was the first time I read a book that offered a glimpse of reality in it. It made me gain wisdom without making me go through the harsh experiences the girls of Riyadh went through. I couldn’t make myself read another book for a whole week because I couldn’t get over how intelligently the book was written. I embraced the book and kept looking at the wall of my room for a few minutes and kept wondering if there will ever be a book as good as this again.
‘Girls of Riyadh’ is a really good read; I suggest it to all the girls out there especially the ones who are living in the Middle East as they will be able to relate themselves and their lives with it.
—The reader is based in Dubai.