Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Set in Saudi Arabia during the boom created by soaring oil prices in the 1980s, this sinuously crafted tale by Hawthorndon Award winner Mantel (for An Experiment in Love) uses the outsider status of a British woman and the minutiae of her daily life to mask and eventually reveal a chilling situation. Mantel builds a sense of disorientation, claustrophobia and paranoia in rendering the abysmal quotidian existence of Frances Shore. A cartographer, Frances has followed her civil engineer husband, Andrew, to the Red Sea port Jidda, where he is engaged in a lucrative construction project. Shunning the expatriate housing compound, the Shores move into a grim four-flat building on Ghazzah Street. Shut out from practicing her profession by the severe, ultra-sexist legal code of Saudi Islam, Frances writes in a journal and observes a domestic scene that comes to seem more and more ominous as she struggles to define the ever-shifting line between private morality and public order. A nonperson in the Muslim world, Frances is unable to break through a wall of prejudice about Westerners to come to a common understanding with her neighbors. She becomes hyperconscious of suspicious goings-on in their building, including a shadowy figure carrying a gun in the hallway. This story of a place where puzzles are "more apparent than real" ends provocatively with more questions than answers. Mantel's relentless pounding away at Frances's stultifying life offers a bit of misdirection, enabling the mystery to sneak towards its conclusion with disconcerting stealth. With marvelously understated wit, Mantel chronicles a world of teas and dinner parties that eventually coalesce into a sinister story of horror just beyond a veil. (Aug.) FYI: Mantel was only the third woman to win the Hawthorndon award in its 80-year history. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
This excellent British novelist, winner of Britain's Hawthornden Prize, makes her U.S. debut with these two trade paperback editions. Eight Months on Ghazzah Street tells in harrowing, you-are-there style the story of a British cartographer who follows her engineer husband to a job in Saudi Arabia. The claustrophobic world in which she finds herself is hostile to expatriate workers and particularly to women, and the isolated apartment building in which they live seems to hide ominous secret affairs. Frances struggles to understand the lives of her Muslim neighbors but is deeply disturbed by the climate of fear around her. A Change of Climate concerns the loss of faith of an upright Christian couple, Ralph and Anna, who have raised their four children and led exemplary lives but are haunted by a missionary trip to Africa in their youth. Mantel does a superb job of re-creating these foreign cultures as seen through British eyes and has a precise insight into the vagaries of humanity that will delight Barbara Pym fans.Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
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. Mantel's third novel, published in 1988 in England and now being issued here (along with her sixth--see above--also previously unseen here), splendidly evokes the constrained life of the expats in a feudal Islamic society where boredom is endemic, rumors of rebellion commonplace, and the police feared. 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 company owns the apartment the Shores move into; it happens to be in an Arab neighborhood, and Frances is largely isolated. She begins a diary recording her impressions; makes friends with Yasmin and Samira, two young married Islamic women on the block; and wonders about the supposedly empty apartment above hers and Andrew's, from which she's certain that she's heard sobbing. Yasmin and Samira, western-educated but strong defenders of Islam, tell her the apartment belongs to a powerful Saudi man who's installed his mistress there. 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. She sees men with rifles in the streets outside and is sure Yasmin and Samira are lying to her--suspicions that prove horrifyingly right when a British guest of theirs is murdered, Yasmin's husband is shot, and Frances's neighbors turn out to have bloody secrets of their own. At once a riveting thriller and a subtle political tale, set in a place as harsh and unforgiving as the desert. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.