This an altogether more personal story set in Saudi Arabia than any other I’ve read. And while it regularly touches on the social and religious issues of the country, the strength of A Hologram for the King is really in the depth of the main character and the way that he struggles with his demons.
I’ll admit it, I have a particular soft spot for personal narratives, especially when they involve women’s perspectives on Islam. It’s just something that I find incredibly fascinating. Being a convert myself, I didn’t grow up in the community, nor is my family Muslim, so it’s kind of like I can live vicariously through the author (and learn more about my faith in the process).
I was a bit worried about this book, even while I was looking forward to reading it. It wasn’t really clear how the relationship between men and women (and the “rules” relating to Islam and women, or more accurately, Saudi society and women) would be portrayed. It could have gone either way, yanno?
This novel is the first in a newer form of epistolary fiction that I haven’t yet encountered – the email rather than the letter. I mean, I’ve read books that had a few emails sprinkled throughout them, but Girls of Riyadh is written entirely in the form of emails from a mysterious, unnamed narrator to a listserv that contains as many Saudi email addresses as she could find.