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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street: A Novel

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,082 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
When Frances Shore moves to Saudi Arabia, she settles in a nondescript sublet, sure that common sense and an open mind will serve her well with her Muslim neighbors. But in the dim, airless flat, Frances spends lonely days writing in her diary, hearing the sounds of sobs through the pipes from the floor above, and seeing the flitting shadows of men on the stairwell. It's a ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,161)
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Darrell Delamaide
It took me some time to read this horrifying novel by Hilary Mantel, not because it isn't well-written or compelling, but because often it's simply so painful to read. There is a mystery, a shadowy bit of skulduggery that gathers force toward the end, but the impact of the book is not in this artifice but in the portrayal of life in Saudi Arabia based on the author's own experience of living there.

We all know this backward desert of Wahabism is terrible, but just how offensive it is to Western s
...more
Simon
May 09, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really excellent book, predominantly about culture, and cultures. It concerns a British couple in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Andrew, a civil engineer, is there to make a lot of money by working on the construction of a new Ministry Building. Frances, his wife, is a cartographer who goes with him but is not, as a woman, allowed to work there. The author herself lived in Jeddah for four years under not dissimilar circumstances and so the extremely unappealing depiction of the city, its inhabi ...more
Erica Verrillo
Jan 31, 2013 Erica Verrillo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big Mantel fan, having enjoyed her other books tremendously. The writing in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, as always, was good. But this novel was deeply flawed for several other reasons.

First, the plot was very thin. Admittedly, Mantel often has sketchy, meandering plots, but this one was just didn't carry water. I'll sum it up for you: British woman moves to Saudi Arabia to join her husband and doesn't like it there. All the other window dressing - an upstairs apartment that is suppose
...more
فراس عالم
Apr 13, 2011 فراس عالم rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
علي أن أعترف في البدء أن الذي استدرجني لشراء هذه الرواية هو فخ عنوانها فليس من المألوف و أنت تتجول ببصرك على رفوف مكتبة أن تجد رواية أجنبية تتحدث عن جدة، بل و تسبقها بالكوابيس، و أن تكون الرواية لكاتبة حاصلة على جائزة "بوكر مان" فهذا يجعل الأمر أكثر إغراء و يغري بدفع قيمة الكتاب و المغامرة بقراءته لاحقاً. فيما بعد اكتشفت أن العنوان كان فخاً متقناً بالفعل فالرواية الحقيقية لا تحمل ذات الإسم بل اسماً أكثر حيادية هو "ثمانية أشهر في شارع غزة" لكنني لسبب ما لم أشعر بالضيق لأن العنوان الذي على غلاف ال ...more
Jan-Maat
Novel of suspense.

The story is of two British ex-pats in Saudi Arabia. The husband works, the wife stays at home. For their own reasons they live in a flat rather than in the compound with the other ex-pats working for the company.

The wife grows increasingly suspicious of her actual neighbours and unknown persons who might be living in her apartment block and what might be going on in the other flats. The build up of tension and the oscillation between the narrator thinking that dark deeds are t
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Zzzzzzzzzz...If you want to know how dreadfully stultifying life would have been for an expat wife in Jeddah in the 80s, read the first 60 or 70 pages of this book. You'll soon be transported to the Land of Nod. When you awaken, wipe your nap-drool from the book and go exchange it posthaste for one with an identifiable plot.
Jeanette
It's written as a memoir of her 4 year stay in Saudi Arabia for her husband's work during her younger life. It holds a bunch of deep Hilary Mantel thoughts, but the surroundings are so glum and the lifestyle holding such barriers of restrictive movement and solitary boredom, that this quality leeches into the book itself.

As a woman, this life would not be doable for me. I think I would have gotten a divorce and stayed home.

It did have one excellent quote though that I will remember.

"It's not th
...more
Rebecca
This is such a weird book...I don't know what to think about this, almost a month after I finished it. I had adored the other Hilary Mantel books that I read, so I wanted to try her earlier stuff. This was written 25 years ago, so its really early. And it's well written, I guess. But its SUCH an uncomfortable read. Basically, the idea is that a British woman follows her husband to Saudi Arabia for a contracting job he gets, and then slowly goes crazy stuck in the apartment alone. Its set up to b ...more
Patricia
Jul 19, 2012 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew that the author of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies had lived in Saudi Arabia? I didn't, but once I started reading the book, I thought "Holy Smokes! She's in my head!"

Hilary Mantel describes so aptly the expat experience in Saudi Arabia that just reading the book gives me a little bit of the heebie-jeebies. She describes her impressions upon first arrival - and brought back memories I had forgotten of the utter isolation, and the difficulty making connections. Any get-together must be
...more
Alicen
Jan 20, 2015 Alicen rated it really liked it
I couldn't resist and stole this from my friend Beth's bookshelf and am so glad I did! This novel, by the same author who recently won the Man Booker Prize, details the tension-filled life on a British woman who moves to Jeddah, Saudia Arabia with her husband. I was completely drawn in by her story and everything that happens to her as she attempts to adapt to life in Saudia Arabia. The story is modeled after "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James and, as such, leads to a suspenseful ending. Definit ...more
Laura
Aug 24, 2016 Laura is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Nearly 30 years on from its original publication, Hilary Mantel's third novel is still as disturbing, incisive and illuminating as ever. In an unusual collaboration, the author has revisited the book to create, with the abridger, this new ten-part serialisation.

Frances Shore is a cartographer by trade, but when her husband's work takes them to Saudi Arabia she finds herself unable to map either the ever changing landscape or the Kingdom's heavily veiled ways of
...more
Jane Branson
Aug 02, 2016 Jane Branson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tense and unnerving, punctured with moments that seem blackly comic until you remember that this is a depiction of a real place and time and not a dystopian parody, this novel reads like a cross between travel writing and psychological thriller. Frances Shore used to be a cartographer, but in her new life maps have as little value as she does. The city of Jeddah is steeped in darkness and changes too often to be caught on paper, while as a Western woman in this culture, she is both objectified a ...more
Alesa
Sep 08, 2015 Alesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book is listed as a novel, it is a very authentic depiction of life of an expatriate wife in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. I have never read anything that so accurately describes the insidious fear that is ever-present, or the dreaded boredom, depression and loss of self-respect that come from living in the Kingdom.

In many ways, it's like Heart of Darkness, in that we go deeper and deeper into despair. Here's just one example of the fantastic writing: "He kept his eyes from the woman
...more
Fahad
Jul 03, 2011 Fahad rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
كوابيس جدة

تحيرنا الكتب العظيمة !!! نحتار لأننا لا نعرف كيف نعبر عن عظمتها، كيف ننفذ إلى معانيها المخبئة ونجليها في صفحات قلائل، نتساءل ونحن نكتب عنها، هل فهمناها تماما ً؟ هل هناك مع استمرارنا في القراءة والكتابة ما سيقلب أفكارنا عنها ويعيد صياغتها من جديد؟

الكتب الرديئة تحيرنا كذلك، صحيح أنها منزوعة المتعة، ولكنها تدفعنا للتساؤل، فكما للعظمة وجوهها، فللرداءة وجوهها، فعلى أي وجه رديء سقطنا؟ كثيرا ً ما أتجاهل الكتابة عن الكتب الرديئة، يكفيها ما سلبتني من وقت، ولكني اليوم سأتوقف لأكتب عن كتاب رديء
...more
PrintersDevil
Aug 16, 2015 PrintersDevil rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got to visit Riyadh Saudi Arabia in May 2015 for short period and I was looking for a book that tell me more about the country and life there. That was why I bought this book. I thought it would be interesting to follow the author on her discoveries through living in Saudi Arabia understanding that this was a work of fiction.

I didn't like the characters in this book and they didn't like themselves either. There was reflexive disparagement of Saudi society without knowing anything about it whi
...more
Jamie Collins
Dec 16, 2014 Jamie Collins rated it liked it
3.5 stars. English writer Hilary Mantel lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for four years in the 1980’s. Given that this is the novel she was inspired to write, it was far from a pleasant sojourn.

This reads like a nightmare. It has a foggy, feverish, this-can’t-really-be-happening atmosphere. But then Mantel’s prose, while elegant, is always a bit dreamy. I like her style for the most part - it worked fabulously well for me in Wolf Hall - but I wanted this story to be a little more solid and detailed
...more
Electra
Nov 11, 2014 Electra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This book creeps up on you. Just as you are ready to settle on your settee with a cup of coffee and enjoy the trials and tribulations of a Brit abroad, bam! the book starts tackling some of the most important issues of debate for our modern times: religion and how fundamentalism works, the place of woman in society, relations between the West and the East, foreign policies and the Gulf States....the list goes on. This book is pure dynamite. The prose is well written and evokes the claustrophobic ...more
Ms. Manal
Oct 22, 2007 Ms. Manal is currently reading it
Recommends it for: Saudis
this is a novel that is written by a westerner and the setting is in Jeddah city. it opens one's eyes on how the west views all Saudis. it is full of some surprising remarks about the Saudi citizen and the Saudi women and Saudi society.

if you are a Saudi , its very challenging not to get angry when you are reading it!!
its full of misconceptions and silly stuff. (but i can't say that it is not enjoyable to read, once you get over the personal feelings of such an accusational novel and just read
...more
Pat
May 22, 2014 Pat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing from such a talented writer,albeit penned much earlier in her career. The plot is slight:woman follows her husband to his new job in Saudi Arabia and encounters extreme sexual segregation in the society, feels frustrated,parnaoid and out of control and stumbles upon a murky, suppressed sludgefund of secrets, and perhaps a violent mystery within her own apartment complex. The biggest problem with this novel is that we slog thru the dialogue and activities of marginally interesting c ...more
محمد آل شايع
تتحدث هذه الرواية عن تجربة زوجين بريطانيين عاشا تجربة السكن في عمارة سكنية في شارع غزة بمدينة جدة.
الرواية مليئة بالأحكام المسبقة والتعميم لحالات فردية وتضخيمها عن المجتمع السعودي.
لكن ميزتها الكبرى أنها تحدثت بصراحة عن نظرة الأجانب الذين يأتون للعمل في السعودية الدونية للشعب والثقافة السعودية.
الرواية بالمجمل تستحق القراءة وأرى أنها تستحق /.
http://mohdshaya.blogspot.com/2015/11...
...more
Tariq Mahmood
Aug 12, 2014 Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
Hillary has very successfully managed to expose the many frictions between Islam and the West in this unique and captivating novel. The East is portrayed as mysterious and secretive as opposed to the intrusive and nosy Western expats. And I would suggest that the same can be applied to Arabs expats settled in UK. As in UK, Arab expats or immigrants are intrusive and nosy, so the story is actually about Western expats in Arab countries. Hillary has captured in minute details all the challenges fa ...more
Jennifer
A British woman moves to Jeddah, Saudia Arabia when her husband is hired there. Stuck largely at home alone and unprepared for Saudi culture, she is plunged into a obsession with the strange, foreboding, unprovable happenings in the foreboding apartment above. A fascinating tour of Western expatriate life in a drastically different culture and a near-page turning plot idea that doesn't entirely deliver -- it's not meant to be a real thriller; she's a very literary writer; but still I thought the ...more
Daniel Simmons
In this novel, apparently based on her own experiences as a trailing spouse expat in Saudi Arabia, Mantel seems focused more on mood than plotting. So while I see other reviewers complaining (with some justification, certainly) about the number of loose ends that never seem to get tied up, I think that's kinda/sorta the point, really -- you're not SUPPOSED to know what's really going on, and the sense of mystery and unease that you experience as a reader is Mantel's way of channeling the anxiety ...more
Trina
Mar 25, 2012 Trina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tension in this book grows from its beginning, when a young British engineer and his wife move to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea. The wife, Frances, is the principal protagonist. A career woman formerly,she can't work in Jiddah, and bridles at the acceptance of the role of women in Saudi. Frances stays alone inside their antiseptic furnished apartment and sees only a few people: other expats, a Pakistani woman who lives across the hall, and a young Arab woman who lives upstairs. France ...more
Mercedes
Fascinating biographical story based on the authors notes from her time on Gazah street. Totally captures the culture collision between Europeans and the Middle East warts and all.
Sandy
Feb 01, 2015 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband, our two young sons and I lived in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from 1983 to 1991, almost the same time-frame as Hillary Mantel lived in Jeddah on the western side. Mantel's ability to recreate the setting of the Kingdom in that time left me breathless. She did not just describe the physical aspects of the country, she was able to put me back in that time and place and make me remember the confusion, the low-grade fear, the suspicion, the boredom, the frustration, the intrigue ...more
W. Scott
Feb 15, 2016 W. Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never lived in the Middle East. Spent six months traversing it; Iraq; Iran; Afghanistan plus Turkey but I have never lived there. I only know one person who actually lived in Saudi and he lived by himself on an expat compound. I don’t think he liked it much but he learned his trade there and made enough money to buy a house when he returned. My friend Susan has spent most of her adult life working in the Middle East . . . but never Saudi . . .
This novel is a tour de force. Hilary Mantel lived i
...more
Wendy
Feb 13, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it
I am so glad I did not give up on Hilary Mantel because I could not stay with Wolf Hall, in fact I will give Wolf Hall another try now that I am used to her style. Mantel is a brilliant writer. This is only the second novel I've read by her and I read her collection of short stories in The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, now I will read anything she has written.
The suspense in this story of British expats in Saudi Arabia aka the Kingdom was so well written that I found I had to remind myself
...more
Raymond Nassif
Oct 28, 2015 Raymond Nassif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In an interview with the Telegraph Hilary Mantel expresses an 'I told you so' attitude about the current difficulties the west faces in dealing with extremism. Her frustration stems from an understanding she gained of these difficulties living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for four years in the 1980s and in 1998 publishing a novel on it. 8 Months on Ghazzah Street is a tense, paranoid, brilliant novel about Frances and Andrew Shore who move to the city when Andrew gets a well paying job.

The novel mo
...more
Radhika
Oct 10, 2015 Radhika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Francis was bemused when on the flight to the Saudi Kingdom, she was strangely questioned why she was travelling to the country. She was to join her husband who had snagged a good construction job. Her first apartment is a furnished apartments and she has Muslim neighbors. She cannot work at the level she would like to, she could not drive , so she spent all her time in her apartment writing her diary, cooking, feeling lonely and making friends with her neighbors who were Muslims. She is sure sh ...more
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Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An ...more
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“They always say, we’ll just do another year. It’s called the golden handcuffs.” 0 likes
“all colors of people mingle in the souks and squares. But they do not merge.” 0 likes
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