That Other Me by Maha Gargash

book cover with eye watching, next to cat on lap

a nutshell: set in ’90s Dubai and Cairo, this gripping novel follows two young women as they try to lead their own lives – in the shadow of an extremely authoritarian patriarch

a line: “They call us weak, but how can that be when we are able to bear so much.”

an image: I particularly liked the image of thoughts clambering over one another in Majed’s head like tiny red ants scurrying, seeking to build something out of chaos – the pain inflicted by red ants felt like exactly the right image for this abusive man’s mindset

a thought: the characters’ Khaleeji identity was an ongoing focus, with the author noting it was evident in the way that Mariam’s shayla was styled, in the herbs used to stuff baby goats for a special meal, and so on

a fact: as a documentary maker, Gargash’s research & scriptwriting delved into traditional Arab societies which fed into into her novels

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Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (tr. Marilyn Booth)

a nutshell: a fragmented but occasionally fascinating insight into Omani culture, zipping back and forth between perspectives from individuals – often women – within a scattered family tree

a line“How liberated a person feels when it’s finally no longer a question of being just an extension or embodiment of someone else’s fancy” (significantly, this is said by a man referring to his father’s diminishing control; women have no such liberation in the narrative)

an image: a father’s resentment and frustration with a baby boy showing autistic traits struck painful blows for me as the sister of someone with autism – at one point the father expresses a desire for the son to fly out of the window like a bird never to return

a thought: it wasn’t until 1970 that Oman outlawed slavery, and the horrifying ramifications of this are felt throughout the novel

a fact: once again I came to understand more of Britain’s role in historical conflicts – Alharthi writes of how, following the 1920 Sib Treaty, Oman was split between the Government of Muscat (with Britain financing the Sultan) and the Imamate, which turned sour after the Sultan signed an agreement for a British firm to do exploratory oil drilling in a desert that lay well within the Imamate’s territories

 

want to read Celestial Bodies? visit here