Posted in Book review, Reading Challenge

Book Review: Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

I picked Girls of Riyadh specifically to match one of the prompts for the Reading Challenge I’m participating in, so this book hasn’t been on my to-read list and I don’t think I would’ve read it without the Reading Challenge.

Honestly I’m unsure how to review this book. Overall I did not enjoy it much, but then again the book is of an unfamiliar culture and I’m well aware that some details were lost to me while having a lot more impact on someone else.

I will not become attached to him before he proposes!

Girls of Riyadh book cover credit to Goodreads.

Girls of Riyadh reveals snippets of the hidden lives of Saudi women. It concentrates on four (apparently fictional) young women who seem to be of the upper class and they all have challenges in their romantic relationships.

I do think I learned something new of their culture at least regarding relationships and the many, many ways they can fail. The book is very chick-lit in its themes and the contrast to the conservative and religious aspects of the overall culture certainly made it unusual compared to the usual chick-lits of that I’ve read. However the writing style was too much “all over the place” for me to enjoy the book. The chapters are written as “emails” and start with a kind of ranting of the writer before diving into the stories of the four women. The characters and what is shared of their lives often feel very shallow and girlish, despite the relatively serious subjects of marriages, careers and independence, and it made me wonder if perhaps I was already too old to be part of the target audience of this book (especially since I do not share the culture). The book does get better towards the end, but I still noticed that I was skipping most of the poems and chapter-starting rants. I think I could’ve been happy by just reading the last third of this book without feeling that I missed something relevant.

This book was originally published in 2005, so it would be interesting to read something similar that’s been published recently and see how things have since changed with the way relationships are formed and how women’s role in society is treated now or are things still mostly as they were when this book was written.

I’m using this book to fill a specific Reading Challenge prompt:

38. A banned book

Girls of Riyadh was banned in Saudi Arabia when it was published so it fitted this prompt well enough. I was curious to read something written by a Saudi woman for the first time and I would’ve wanted to enjoy the book more but sadly didn’t.

What Reading Challenge? Check out my post about it here.


I love books, games and the coziness of our house (currently it's the kingdom of me and my husband). My work in a game studio as a Senior HR Specialist keeps me busy and social, but I am an introvert in my core. Navigating life between my very social work and my introvert, less social personality can be tricky and it goes hand in hand with my interest in overall personal well-being.

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