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The Mistress of Abha

2.94  ·  Rating Details ·  68 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
The year is 1930 and the British are in Arabia. Ivor Willoughby, a young orientalist, embarks on an ambitious quest to find his father, an officer abroad with the British Army. In all Ivor's life, Robert has returned to England only once, bedraggled and wild-eyed with tales of As'ir, a land of sheikhs and white-turbaned bandits, where he is fighting alongside Captain Lawre ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
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Community Reviews

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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Do I like the cover?: No. I mean, it is very pretty, but the novel takes place in Saudi Arabia. There is no call for a pyramid.

Did... I feel excessively grateful for the classes I took on Islamic history back in college?: YES. There's a small map and a very brief list of major players at the beginning of the book, but hoo-boy, Newton doesn't bother explaining anything.

Did... I eventually find myself wishing my commute were shorter so I could stop reading?: YES. When I found myself twice stopping
May 02, 2016 Kaion rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, asia
In which I contemplate complex dinner party metaphors instead of paying attention to the plot and stuff

Ivor spent his whole life dreaming of the Arabia of his father's tales: of the heroic exploits possible in the constant warring land. Tales heard in his father's brief stops home before Robert Willoughby inevitably returned to the desert... until he stopped coming back completely. Now Ivor has come to the peninsula himself, commissioned by the Royal Navy to find locusts, but really to follow th
Sep 26, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, fiction
I think perhaps there is an interesting story hidden in here somewhere, but the writing is so lifeless it's hard to see it or sustain much interest. For an adventure story, Newton does an awful lot of telling and not enough showing. There are occasional bouts of action but mostly they happen at a remove.

A young Englishman, Ivor Willoughby, sets out for Arabia in 1930, ostensibly to eradicate locust breeding grounds at a colonial outpost (I wasn't exactly sure how his education in classics and Ne
May 02, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
In The Mistress of Abha by William Newton, Ivor Willoughby goes searching for the father he barely knew. A British soldier stationed in Arabia, Ivor met his father, Robert, on only 2 occasions and for only a handful of days in total, but Robert was a legend in their household and beyond. Ivor is determined, from a very young age, to go to Arabia for himself and see the land that so enthralled his father. His father’s legend, the story of Ullobi, is not at all what he imagined. It’s much, much mo ...more
Nov 03, 2010 thewanderingjew rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Mistress of Abha, William Newton
The book begins in the early part of the 1900's. A young boy, Ivor Willoughby, desperately missing his military father, who is stationed in the Middle East in a territory from which he cannot return for regular visits and eventually, for none at all, makes it his life's dream to one day, grow up and search for him. He follows his father's path into the military and when he posts to the same region, discovers that his father is somewhat of a legend, called Ullobi,
Jan 13, 2011 Meghan rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through the first-reads program.

I was excited to win this book, because I don't normally read historical fiction, so this gave me a good excuse. Plus I was led to believe this novel would be in the "action, adventure, with a little bit of romance" genre, which I generally enjoy.

All in all, I felt like this book could have been written by three different authors. The first third of the book was painful to get through. The middle was so-so. And the last third w
Sep 06, 2011 Tami rated it it was ok
I won this book via First Reads, having requested it because I love reading novels set in Northern Africa and the Middle East, and the time period (1930s, mainly) piqued my curiosity.

This "novel" struck me as far more of a historical travelogue than a novel with any particular plotline to properly sustain it (other than the main character Ivor Willoughby's quest to find his enlisted father, who abandoned his English family years previously). I agree with another reviewer that it almost seemed li
Oct 23, 2010 Cindi rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
The Mistress of Abha is written by William Newton, who died earlier this year. Newton spent his professional career as a doctor and started writing novels in his retirement. The Mistress of Abha is his second published novel.

This novel is set in 1930's Arabia. Ivor Willoughby has decided to search for his long lost father. He knows that his father left his mother shortly after his birth to serve with the British in Arabia. He returned for one brief visit when Ivor was a teenager and then disappe
Oct 12, 2010 Potter rated it really liked it
I received this book as part of the first-reads program.

If you look at this novel as a historical narrative rather than a grand adventure story (as it is described on the blurb) it is considerably more enjoyable. This novel is a series of stories about Robert Willoghby, a British Army officer stationed in Arabia in during early part of the 20th century, as related to his 30-year-old son, Ivor, by the individuals that Ivor encounters on his search through Arabia for Robert.

This novel made me thi
Kerrie Rodgerson
Dec 26, 2010 Kerrie Rodgerson rated it liked it
I liked this book..Newton is a treasure trove of information about Arabia! He knew so much about the wars, conflicts, culture, storytelling and history of the country. This was interesting, but got old and somewhat confusing at times. The best parts of the book were when he told stories about the families. Newton would get involved in telling their story and culture and chapters would fly by. He really had a handle on how they lived and told stories to each other. The mystery took too long to de ...more
Jun 15, 2011 Sonia rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Men
The story sounded like it would be a good one, but I just can't finish it. I think this must be a male version of a Mary Sue book. Too much womanizing (father goes through all the women in town, son goes through all the women on the boat) and now it's moving on to Arabia with harems, concubines, and white slaves. Ho hum! There might be an adventure tale in there somewhere but all I see is a misguided son who has made a godlike superhero of a father he's only seen once or twice. What an ass the f ...more
Dec 17, 2015 Fadillah rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, middle-east
I was contemplating whether i wanted to finish this book or not. The beginning, truth be told, was such a pain in the ass. The moment of redemption in this book is when Etza told the tale of Naema, Tabalrha and Nuha in the middle of the book. I never expected a happy ending from this book because people kept saying and insinuating that his father (Wallougby or known as Ullobi in the land of Arabia) might be dead. However, ivor didnt give up and kept seaching for a clues of where his father might ...more
Dec 04, 2010 Cassandra rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
Starting off, I found the book really difficult to engage with; long passages recounting family and geographical history were distracting when trying to follow the story. However, I have set a rule for myself to finish any book I start, even if it is just skimming through, and I am glad I did. The narrative begins to pick up about halfway through and becomes quite an interesting read. At times, I did have to skim over the author's description of the history of conflict between clans or cities, w ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Sam rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
I've been struggling to finish this book for a while now. Reading this book feels more like a chore to me than anything else. I really wanted to give this book a chance, that's why it took me so long to write this review. I was hoping I would change my mind when I try to read it again. That of course never happened. To me this book is one of the most boring books I've ever read and I'm not saying this lightly. I couldn't bring myself to get past the 2nd chapter. The monotone writing style bored ...more
Valerie Roberts
Oct 11, 2010 Valerie Roberts rated it it was ok
I got this book for free from a Goodreads giveaway, so I really wanted to love it. I enjoy books about historical times and foreign places, so I thought it would be a great read. I was a little let down though. I'm glad I had the actual book, and not a Kindle download, because I was constantly having to refer back to the list of characters, tribes, and map at the beginning of the book. The first half of the book was very complicated, because of all of the unfamiliar Arabian tribes, place names, ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Sharada rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2010
I won this book free from Goodreads Firstreads. I really liked the idea of this book, but it wasn't quite as good as I had hoped. The writing style was supposed to sound like it was from 1930's which is when the book is set, even though its a very new book. It was mostly the writing style that I didn't like too much, but I really liked the story. I actually learned a lot about that part of the world in the 1930s, which was really interesting. Overall it was a good book, but maybe not exactly my ...more
Sep 18, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I received this book as part of Goodreads' First Reads program. I chose it as a departure from my usual book choices as I am not familiar with early 20th century Middle East. I thought the beginning and the ending read pretty well, but I felt like the progression of the novel somewhat stalled in the middle. There was a fair amount of action and history, which was interesting, but the story did not draw me in as much as some other books. I liked that the writing style seemed to fit the time perio ...more
Nicole Overmoyer
May 02, 2014 Nicole Overmoyer rated it did not like it
I got to page 60 of this book. It only took me a month of fits and starts to realize it was past time to give it up. I want to read the story that's portrayed in the blurb on the back of the book, I really do. But that story is buried too deep in the pages. Newton's novel reads like a textbook. A dull, confusing textbook with too many extra characters who don't mean anything yet to the larger story.

I'll try it again, though. One day.
Oct 17, 2010 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and am glad that I did because I enjoyed reading it. This is a story of a young Englishman's search for his father in Arabia in the 1920s, just after the period of Lawrence of Arabia. Certainly it was well-researched, and rings true, giving the real tribal atmosphere of the time, and also giving a good idea of the limitations and opportunities for women. This would be fun to see as a miniseries or movie.
Susan Roden
May 17, 2015 Susan Roden rated it really liked it
This book drew me in from the start. A man narrates the story of his journey to find his father, who disappeared from his life in the 1920's. An historical fiction of tribes on the western edge of the Saudi Arabian peninsula, and the beginning of King Saud uniting Arabs. The female characters are terribly fascinating.
Feb 02, 2016 Amanda rated it did not like it
There should be an option on Goodreads for "Did you actually finish this book?", because I did not. I gave it a good go and read about half of it before I decided to cut my losses and move onto something else. The writing style was not for me and the story itself was boring. I wish I had stopped reading the book earlier and just moved on.
Literary  Chanteuse
Oct 07, 2013 Literary Chanteuse rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
I won this book here on a giveaway and couldn't have been more pleased to discover it is a good book.

The story keeps the anticipation right to the very end. It is an epic type that unfolds as it goes on and has adventure, history, love, mystery. Also it features such strong female characters who are inevitably the heart of the story.
Jan 09, 2014 Nina rated it really liked it
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed reading this. It's a little dry but very descriptive. The characters give you a substantial glimpse into Arabic culture. My favorite part is how once a character dies, the author shares the characters most intimate thoughts and sentiments at the end of the chapter. It was like listening to a whisper of the persons spirit
Nov 19, 2010 Randal rated it liked it
The back cover of this book touts it as something of a tantalizing mystery--there are elements of mystery, but it's more historical travelogue and adventure story. You may find keeping all the tribes and geography and timeline straight, as I did, but all in all The Mistress of Abha offers a detailed journey to a time and place to which many Westerners have had very little exposure.
Dec 04, 2013 Brett rated it liked it
Shelves: 6th-book-project
I agree with parts of several previous reviews: Why are there pyramids on the cover of a book set in Saudi Arabia?; read this as historical fiction, not an adventure novel; it's quite good, but a slow read; and the son is a grossly underdeveloped, unsympathetic character.
Boston Book Bums
Oct 05, 2010 Boston Book Bums rated it liked it
Ultimately, when you look at Mistress of Abha as a period work designed to reflect the varying tribal and religious of Saudia Arabia, through the eyes of a proper English gentlemen, you appreciate the nuances, detail and very retrained emotional search of a man for his father
Karl Roth
Mar 20, 2011 Karl Roth rated it liked it
enjoyed reading about the customs and land of that part of the world - story and pacing were ok . . . just - almost didn't read the last few pages
Charlotte Wiebe
Sep 06, 2011 Charlotte Wiebe is currently reading it
Just won this book on Goodreads First Reads. So exciting. Will update as soon as I have received and read the book.
Davina rated it it was amazing
Jul 09, 2013
FicusFan rated it really liked it
Oct 31, 2010
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

"Dr Kenneth Newton, who has died aged 82, was a Harley Street doctor who treated British and foreign royalty, the aristocracy and celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr and Dame Margot Fonteyn."
More about William Newton...

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