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Women of Sand and Myrrh

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  668 ratings  ·  85 reviews
A powerful and moving novel, by the Arab world'sleading woman novelist, about four women copingwith the insular, oppressive society of an unnameddesert state. ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published July 1st 1992 by Anchor (first published 1982)
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ثلاثية غرناطة by Radwa AshourAzazil by يوسف زيدانواحة الغروب by بهاء طاهرThe Cairo Trilogy by Naguib MahfouzThe Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
Best Middle East Fiction
50th out of 257 books — 279 voters
عزازيل by يوسف زيدانWomen of Sand and Myrrh by Hanan Al-ShaykhArabian Love Poems by Nizar QabbaniIn the Country of Men by Hisham MatarPalace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Arabic Literature in English Translation
2nd out of 191 books — 21 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,590)
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Methodtomadness
So Women of Sand and Myrrh is a better book than most people are giving it credit for, albeit not a fantastic one. Read it more like a Middle Eastern Virginia Woolf novel, and it makes more sense. The news here is not that "hey, women living in unnamed generic Islamic countries can feel oppressed," but that Hanan Al-Shaykh, in 1980-something, was writing such a nuanced account of the very specific ways that female sexuality could be circumscribed and/or redirected in such a world. The internal f ...more
Nojood Alsudairi
من الغريب أن تتشابه شخصية نورة الصحراوية وشخصية سوزان الأمريكية في الفحش مع فارق أن الأولى تكره الصحراء بينما تحبها الثانية. بينما تتشابه سهى اللبنانية وتمر الجنوبية في رفضهما للوضع الذي وجدتا أنفسهما فيه والخروج من المأزق.
أربع نجمات للأسلوب أما القصة فتشبه تلك القصص الأمريكية التي تؤلف عن العرب بحيث تأخذ كل القصص العجيبة والنادرة وتجمعها في قصة واحدة. ليتها أتقنت ولو لهجة واحدة من لهجات دول الخليج لكانت أكثر مصداقية. اللهجة المستخدمة مزيج مضحك من كلمات قد يستخدمها القصيبي في حلقات طاش ما طاش: "
...more
Rachel Estridge
Many of the reviews, I believe, are unfair. The English translation was heavily edited. The name of the book, and therefore, the meaning of the story was altered. Even the order of the perspectives were swapped around! This definitely changed our idea of who was the protagonist and who's story we should really be following. If this book was read as it is told in its original form, we would have seen it as Al-Shaykh intended. This story is very important for Middle Eastern feminism, identity, and ...more
مريم ناصر
هدى و ايفون , فتاتان مهاجرتان من لبنان , تقضيان يوماً على الشاطئ, و كلاً منهما تحمل حكاية مدسوسة تحت قطعتي المايوه,
هدى بتربيتها الصارمة , تعشق البحر و تخشاه لأنها في ذاكرتها تحمل مساحة سوداء شاسعة من النواح حين أكتشف والدها أنها تسبح في شاطئ مغلق و تتعرى أمام نسوة مثلها!
و ايفون بنت البحر, الأنثى جداً و التي لا تريدها أمها أن تكون أفضل من شقيقها و تعد نجاحها سبب متعمد ليفشل أخوتها الذكور, حتى حين رمت نفسها من الصخرة المحرمة, وبختها لأنها كانت سبب في (إحراج)شقيقها الأكبر لأنه لم يتجرأ و يفعلها هو
...more
Lina
سلبيات سلبيات سلبيات ..و لا ايجابية واحدة ذكرتها!
Renee
Feb 02, 2008 Renee rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like angsty "women's stories"
Good concept: poor execution.

Four disparate Middle Eastren women -- who know or know of each other -- tell their stories about women's lives in a fundamentalist male-dominated society. Each woman's story adds another POV to what's going on with all the other characters.

I thought it would be an interesting approach to first-person narrative. The idea, I assume, was to give the reader a view of each character from internal and external POVs. Unfortunately, the writer failed to deliver. The narra
...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
من السهل التسرع في الحكم على الرواية لو انتظرنا حبكة وأحداث متسلسلة في صورة قصة. والمؤلفة تستخدم التكنيك الانطباعي المعروف لدى فيرجينيا ولف حيث يتم تسجيل الانطباعات وكما تدور في داخل النفس وبالتالي حبكة الأحداث غير متوقعة بل "تيار الوعي". وباستخدام هذا التكنيك والذي يتبع منهج "قول يا بوزيد قول واحنا معاك للصبح" تقوم ستات قمرات بسرد حكايتهن وكل واحدة تقول حكايتها وتشكو هم الحياة في الصحراء وكم أنها تحلم بالحرية وقد ملت وقرفت من كل هذا الكبت والكبح والقمع.. الكتاب يعجبني في جرأته وعرض الميول السح ...more
Rusalka
It took me a while to pin down my feelings for this book. It raises so many, it was really hard to wade through them all and work out what I thought of the book as a whole.

The book is 4 intertwining stories about 4 different women within a very strict, restrictive Islamic society within the Middle East. The best I can find is Saudi Arabia is probably the closest with these restrictions. I loved that this was from the women's perspective which gave us an insight into a world half of us would neve
...more
Aziza
Since the “undetermined Gulf state” the cover claims the novel is about is without a doubt Saudi Arabia and this novel also focuses on four female protagonists, readers might be tempted to compare Women of Sand and Myrrh with Raja Abdallah Sabi’s Girls of Riyadh. Nonetheless, while the latter are still young (and sometimes make dumb choices because of it), Shaykh’s women are mature and should know better. Unfortunately, they are rather unsympathetic.

Of the four main characters only Jameela is re
...more
Zillah
l must admit l expected a lot more from this book, especially after reading reviews on the cover when l was buying it..
it's composed in an interesting way, divided into 4 parts, each telling a story of one woman, while all four are connected in some way..
the writing style didn't impress me one bit though, and sometimes l struggled with following the story since it jumps from past to present without giving a clear impression of the time..
Andrea
I feel kinda bad even giving this book a rating because I didn't finish it. It is one of only a handful of books I gave up on. I got a third of the way through it and just couldn't take anymore. I hated the characters! It was like reading about a bunch of melodramatic, over-angsted teenagers acting for a MTV reality show. I'm not belittling the problems women in the Middle East have faced but these narrators were so whiny and self-absorbed. They couldn't empathize at all with each other when the ...more
Heather
Was disappointed. The author conveyed the clastrophobic atmosphere of being a woman in an Islamic country rather well but I just didn't like the characters. I understand how stunted their lives were and how that molded their personalities, but it went on and on and on.
Mary Petit
Really intresting to read the thoughts and feelings as well as the daily life of what it may be like to live in a land so different from what we're used to, the story line was great and I really was invested in the women's lives.
Nadia
I went in expecting this to be messy (it was) but still found parts of it interesting in spite of it.
Daryle
I loved the idea of this book, but just couldn't get into it. I'm not sure if it was the writing style, translation, or story. A bit of a disappointment.
T
Really this book was 2.75 stars because of the 4 women, not all of their stories were of interest. Suzanne the crazy American held the least interest for me. Many things made this tale drag;reading a book of people who are bored is boring to read. Other often-repeated tales of Arabia are included here for example, the story of the women who do not believe that the lunar landing ever happened. "Because the moon is so small, how could a man stand on it."
One women managed to educate herself and use
...more
Saleem Khashan
أنا مافي أقدر أخلص هذا الكتاب صديق أنا مافي أفهم المطلوب مازا؟
Rhoda
An amazing view into a foreign world, sensitively translated
Creative
لازالت في ذاكرتي بعض من مقاطع الروايه حتى بعد سنوات من قراءتها ...more
Bayan
صادقة لدرجة مؤلمة
Jennyb
I liked "Women of Sand and Myrrh" a good bit, despite none of its characters being especially likeable. The book is divided into first-person narratives of four female characters in "an unnamed desert state," which it is virtually impossible NOT to identify as Saudi Arabia. First there is Suha, a Lebanese woman it is likewise impossible not to identify with Hanan al-Shaykh herself. Suha follows her husband to the desert when his job takes him there. She is an educated woman who wants to do somet ...more
Nazrinsaad
Susah betul nak habiskan buku ni. Tiga bulan bukan masa yg singkat.

Kekangan masa dan subteks yg banyak di dalam novel ini membuatkan aku kadang kala 'penat' membaca.

Kisah Suha - wanita bandar yg terpaksa tinggal di padang pasir (penulis merujuk latar tempat hanya sbg padang pasir membuatkan pembaca bebas berimaginasi di mana latar tempat ianya terjadi).

Tamr - gadis lokal yg menghadapi cabaran untuk memajukan diri dari masyarakat dan keluarga yg konservatif.

Suzanne - Wanita asing yg jatuh cinta
...more
Christy
Four women live in an unnamed Arabic desert-country, reacting differently to the enclosed world they inhabit:

Suha: a "foreigner" who is suffocating under the weight of the heavy fabric she must inhabit, the small lot she is allowed in life. Cannot wait to leave the desert.

Tamr: desires to open her own store and must risk infuriating her family and shaming her male relations.

Suzanne: a voluptuous American woman who is thrilled to live in the desert, as she stands out and can command respect wit
...more
Cassie
Jan 05, 2014 Cassie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: travel readers
Recommended to Cassie by: Kia
There are four women central to this novel's structure are more alike than they are portrayed. While they are all struggling in their own circumstances to find their place, blend in, stand out, or make a name for themselves, few of them try to get out of their situations. They create their own prisons, but don't ever try to escape. Suha is the only one who, after pages and pages of complaining and voluntary isolation, chooses to gather herself together and find a way out. Tamr has her temper tan ...more
Reem
الرواية عبارة في الحقيقة عن قصص متصلة منفصلة لأربع سيدات جمعهن العيش في بلد صحراوي غير محدد – في إحدى دول الخليج -. تروي كل منهن قصتها مع المجتمع المحيط، فيبحر القاريء في أفكار السيدات، هواجسهن أخطائهن و قراراتهن

تناقش الكاتبة حنان الشيخ الكبت في هذا البلد و ما يسببه من ردود أفعال لدى كل سيدة مستخدمة أسلوب ما يسمى بتيار الوعي لتروي وجهة نظر كل شخصية و ما يجول في خاطرها. ليكتشف القاريء الأسباب التي قد تؤدي بزوجة و أم لطفل إلى علاقة محرمة مع امرأة أخرى و كيف ترى نفسها بعد أن تجد أنها وقعت في المحظو
...more
Amari
Spectacular. Al-Shaykh is a powerful writer and draws the reader very quickly into the world(s) of her unhappy, unfulfilled characters. The technique of dividing the novel into four sections, each in first person and narrated by a different character, made it feel more like a collection of connected short stories, especially because of interruptions and overlap in the sequence of events.

Al-Shaykh's group of four is extremely diverse in all the important ways. They share little more than a locati
...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Set in an unnamed country in the Mid East, this novel follows the lives of four women: Suha, Nur, Suzanne, and Tamr. Each woman is affected by the conservative Muslim culture they live in, but react in four distinctly different ways. Suha--Lebanese born and educated--chafes at the restrictions she faces and acts out by entering into a dangerous sexual relationship with Nur. Wealthy and pampered Nur uses sex to break up the boredom of her life as does American Suzanne. Unsurprising, both women do ...more
Rykia
Taking place in an unnamed desert state, Women of Sand and Myrrh takes the reader through the lives of four very different women who are in the desert - and seeking to escape from it - for differing reasons. There is Suha, the educated but chronically bored Lebanese exile; Tamr, the rebel who wants to learn and open her own business; Suzanne, the white American who is cheating on her husband with a violent man; and Nur, the wife and mother who is unhappy in both roles and seeks to cope with her ...more
Hafsa
Jul 12, 2007 Hafsa rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in women and gender in the middle east
I loved Hanan al-Shaykh's book, The Story of Zahra, so thought that this would be excellent as well. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations.

The book centers around the lives of four ex pat women living in an "unnamed" Gulf country. The women all come from wealthy backgrounds and are able to enjoy the material luxuries of living in an oil-state, but they're unable to exercise their freedom and have very limited agency.

I didn't think this book would fit into the category of "the secret li
...more
devon
Jun 01, 2007 devon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lily hindy
I just finished this book-- It took me a month to read, but Ithink that's becasue I really let this book penetrate my sensibilities, impressions, biases and feminisms. This is the second book I've read by the author and had it been the first, I dont think i would have appreciated Beirut Blues as much. This book is not so subtle. The characters are fierce. The writing poetic and personal. I assume someone would make a film out of it, and that would be a terrible thing. As each woman has a section ...more
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Hanan Al-Shaykh (Arabic: حنان الشيخ) is a Lebanese journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright.
Al-Shaykh was born into a conservative Shia' Muslim family. She received her primary education in Beirut, and later she attended the American College for Girls in Cairo.
Al-Shaykh began her journalism career in Egypt before returning to Lebanon. She has also lived in Saudi Arabia and is curr
...more
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