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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street: A Novel

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  747 ratings  ·  109 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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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
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
فراس عالم
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
Erica Verrillo
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Tariq Mahmood
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
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
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
A terrific sense of menace pervades this story from the beginning, as cartographer Frances struggles to navigate her new home in Jeddah, where her husband has landed a lucrative construction job. It's the mid-1980s, and Saudi Arabia is riding high on the back of oil wealth, marble and glass towers rising out of empty lots, a modern-looking yet feudal economy carried on the backs of exploited immigrant workers. Cloistered in a luxurious apartment, Frances is frustrated by her Muslim women neighbo ...more
Uthpala Dassanayake
Hillary Mantel talks about western expats in Saudi Arabia. A professional female accompanying her husband leaving behind her carrier finds herself unable to fit in to local system or into expats society. The problem is, she wants to see everybody as human beings first. She is unable to tolerate Europeans ridiculing Arabs, unable to get used to Arabs ill-treating women and even sympathizing with Asian house maids serving local families. Nobody feels safe with her. However, only Europeans are give ...more
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
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
Julia  Yeates
It's somewhat coincidental that I was reading this book on the say that I received an e-mail detailing a TEFL job in Saudi Arabia. And then, the next day, the king died. This is how the book made me feel, a little paranoid, mistrustful, wondering what was going on, between the lines.

I'm not sure that I'd recommend it. It stumbles on a little, the plot is elusive, the subject matter is depressing. It dragged me down and drained me. Which may make it a brilliant book, or maybe not. Who knows?

One t
I found this in a bargain bookshop for £1 and having heard so much about Hilary Mantel recently I thought I would start with this. I don't fancy the historic ones as I really am not mad on books set in British history.

I found the way she writes a pleasure to read as it was an easy style, not tryong to be poetic or arty which I find can be just too much like hard work.

I was fascinated by her descriptions of Jeddah which were based on her own personal experience of living there. She says in an int
This is a small book from the 1980s about a British woman who accompanies her husband, an architect, when he's lured to Saudi Arabia to work by the promise of ridiculously high pay. Because of the country's religious restrictions she can't work, they have to ferment their own alcohol, and she can hardly leave her apartment building, in which strange things seem to be going on. Apparently this is based on Mantel's own experience as an expat in Saudi Arabia. The novel shows very vividly how the ex ...more
Aug 16, 2007 Sephie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like intrigue
A very absorbing tale, 'a Middle Eastern Turn of the Screw'. Frances follows her husband out to Saudi where he works. She is aware that her 'freedom' will be limited but is not prepared for what unfolds. This was a great story which keeps the reader guessing.
Audrey Driscoll
After reading reviews of this book, I didn't expect much and was pleasantly surprised to find it more interesting than I expected. It's true that the mystery implied in the jacket description is revealed late in the story and is never resolved. But that's the point. This book is about the limits of perception and the grating of cultures against one another. Neither the mostly British ex-pats nor the Saudis are depicted with any degree of flattery. Frances's story is one of intense culture shock. ...more
Something else by Hilary Mantel to read while waiting for the third volume of Thomas Cromwells life. It was written some time ago. Ghazzah street events and characters have some plausibility, as Mantel lived there for several years. Otherwise it would seem "politically incorrect." I too have known people who lived in Saudi and had a pretty severe disconnect between what they thought was going to be an adventure and what they actually ended up with. Mantel seems to be able to write in several dif ...more
It's always torturous to read a horrible novel by an author you love. Unfortunately, this early book by Mantel is too hung up on the otherness of Jeddah to undertake any sort of serious examination of Saudi society. The Muslim neighbours, especially the Pakistani woman, are more caricatures than fully developed characters. This is all the more disappointing because there were points where the book actually does manage to convey the claustrophobic nature of life under strict purdah and segregatio ...more
Pamela Scott
I really enjoyed Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, one of Mantel’s earliest novels. I’ve never read anything set in Saudi Arabia so I found it interesting to read about a culture and regime that is so different from what I know. I liked the contrasts between Western and Eastern culture Mantel offers in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. Frances is horrified and fascinated in equal measures by life in the Kingdom especially the way women are treated. She is horrified to read about two Australian women ...more
Mantel's book brings to mind the films "Blow-Up" and "The Conversation," in which evidence of some kind of malfeasance is discovered by an otherwise innocent observer, then takes on a life of its own, while the observer is swept up in a growing tide of paranoia. The narrator in this chilling novel is a woman whose husband has taken a job in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, in the 1980s. Husband and wife are immediately submerged in a culture far different from any they've known, where appearance and reality ...more
The Wee Hen
When I'm on a roll with good books, I'm on a real roll and all I do is love everything. When all I can find is a rum go... well, that's where I am now.
I just came off of The Quincunx and I needed a break. A nice sit by the aga. Or something so psychologically thrilling that it it leaves me breathless, like maybe a new Sarah Waters novel, if you please.
Instead I got Eight Months. I thought I was in for a real treat with the cover blurb about it being "Turn of the Screw" in the Middle East.
First heard this years ago being read on Women's Hour, and bought the book to try and fill in the gaps. (It didn't, but the gaps got narrower!) Have now re-read it, and there are resonances with two books I've just read - Miracle at Speedy Motors, and Night of the Mi'raj. The main character has come from the land of Speedy Motors, and gone to Saudi Arabia. This rounded out my reading experience.

I love the world Hilary Mantel has made. The main character is a strong and independent woman, who is
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
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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
More about Hilary Mantel...
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2) A Place of Greater Safety Beyond Black Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies

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