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The Dove's Necklace

2.98  ·  Rating details ·  718 ratings  ·  173 reviews
When the body of a young woman is discovered in the Lane of Many Heads, an alley in modern-day Mecca, no one will claim it, as they are all ashamed of her nakedness. As Detective Nasser pursues his investigation of the case, seemingly all of Mecca chimes in—including the Lane of Many Heads itself—in this brilliant, funny, profane, and enigmatic fever dream of a novel by Ra ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by The Overlook Press (first published 2010)
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Average rating 2.98  · 
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Danielle Urban
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Dove's Necklace by Raja Alem is a captivating novel that will lure all readers to its great depth. A mystery that intrigues the soul to flip its pages in a haste to find out its secrets. What lies deep in this novel is a history that will blow readers away with every word. Raja Alem is indeed a talented writer with a way of bringing, to life, the murder, customs, and investigation that is portrayed in this stunning tale. The point of view is enjoyable. Told from an alley way's point of view. ...more
The opening for The Dove's Necklace by Raja Alem seems to declare that this is a mystery though scarcely a conventional one. I can't say that I've ever read a mystery which begins from the perspective of the street where the body was found. There is a police detective investigating the death. Yet if you were expecting to find out whodunit, you will be sorely disappointed. It can be challenging to even get an identification of a female murder victim in a country where women are completely veiled ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm really not sure what to think about this book. On the one hand, it's highly original; totally unlike anything I've ever read. On the other, it is very confusing. It is beautiful and ugly at the same time.

It is, underneath all the overlaid intersecting story-lines, a book about the conflict between modern global capitalism and traditional tribalism, class structure and religious fundamentalism. It is particularly concerned with the rights of women; how in traditional Wahabbist society, women
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alem's novels demand patience and are to be savoured piecemeal if we are to do the writer's genius credit. I found it rich, dense, fascinating, beautiful, tiring, and at times frustrating. However, I was left with memorable, even if unbelievably philosophical, characters who managed to convey Alem's unforgettable and intricate mythologising of Macca. Hers is a very different history, one that invites tasting (تذوق) with a palate desensitised to tyranny of fact. Alem knows Macca from its mystical ...more
Trigger warnings: murder, misogyny, childbirth, death of a child, violence.

Here's the thing: I've been wanting to read this book for a year now, after stumbling across it in Foyles last year. But I didn't have space in my suitcase for it at the time, so I put it on the backburner. Until I saw a copy sitting on the new books shelf at my local library.

The premise sounded SO interesting - a woman's body is found in a laneway in Mecca, and she can't be identified. It's told from the perspective of
Book Riot Community
A gripping noir, about a discovered body and subsequent investigation in Mecca. Alem is the first woman to win the international prize for Arabic fiction.

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books:
The Dove's Necklace absolutely blew me away. I'll work on a more comprehensive review this coming week, but this is easily my favorite read of the year. ...more
Tatiana  Coțofan
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Dove's Necklace by Raja'a Alem is one of those novels you don't know how to talk about for the lack of knowledge about the world it describes. So I'll just stick to what I could grasp.

The narrator in this novel is a street in Mecca, The Lane of Many Heads. The street is a woman and she cares about the people who live on it, despite the fact that they might think otherwise. A body of a naked woman was found on the street, and a detective is summoned to investigate. He's keen to find the trut
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was very excited to read the book as it was a joint winner of the Int Prize of Arabic Fiction (IPAF) 2011. The first half of the book present us with many characters and their life stories which I had to keep a list of (to use later during the book club meeting discussion). The details are nice but the plot is weak and it gets weaker during as the novel draws to an end. The author is probably trying to mimic the Dan Brown style in creating a mystery(s) that is/are not convincing. I really wond ...more
Rachel León
I received an ARC of this novel to review for Chicago Review of Books. Here's the link:
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is my most challenging book this year. First woman to win the Arabic Prize in Fiction. Prize-winning German translation. 474 pages of emotionally dense and labyrinthine writing. Started in Sept, had to turn it back in to the library because I exhausted renewals, and picked it up again 4 weeks and 2 days ago. 10 pages. So much magical realism, blocks of italic text, so much surrealism (my friends lovingly point out my literalness from time to time). 50 pages. Read a few reviews. 50 more. Tho ...more
Highly imaginative, and brilliantly written. It has a dazzling range of references, and is quite interesting on questions of identity, and on femininity and sexuality too, particularly in the Azza-Aisha split (one of them has been murdered; of both of them, or neither?). But to be honest, I didn't know what the bloody hell was going on half the time. More than half the time. And while I think that was the point to some extent, it made the book feel too long. I feel I let this book down as a read ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
There is an amazing, complex, beautifully written, fiercely intelligent and expressively told book here. I just did not get it. I think this is my fault not the book’s and not the author’s. I just did not get it or understand it. I think the author is hugely talented and a brilliant writer. I just did not get it. I finished the book but it made no sense to me. But, and I would never say this about any other book as I firmly believe that it is the duty of a book to communicate with it’s reader, I ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Wonderful, mysterious, weird, gruesome at times, and generally quite challenging to read. And don’t expect a traditional murder mystery, because that it is not. I learned so much about another culture though, about a different way of life. Three rather than four stars is due to me completely and literally losing the plot during Part Two of the book.
Ann Tonks
Jul 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
So far, I haven't been able to get past the first 20 pages. This book won an international prize for Arabic Fiction so I want to be able to read it but so far, there's a density that I just can't beat. ...more
Kofi Adisa
A convoluted web that challenges the old and the new ways of seeing Mecca. It is not an easy read, but it is a worthwhile read.
Miriam Williams
Enjoyed the start, then put it down and couldn't be bothered picking it up again. Maybe I'll come back to it someday. ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
4 stars for the start and the ending, 2 stars for some of the wandering pages in the middle.
Renita D'Silva
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. Poetic.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dead girl in Mecca, plenty of colourful characters, a charged atmosphere and quite a bit of surrealism. Not an easy read.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tammy Comeau Nadeau
Aug 04, 2020 rated it did not like it
Difficult to follow.
Trigger Warning Database
Trigger & Content Warnings:

Death of a child
Sharifa Bahri
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read the book in its original language (Arabic) and loved it so much! I would guess a lot got missing in the translation into English. If you can read it in Arabic, do it!!
Chris Petrie
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a book I'd recommend to many people- interesting but flawed. ...more
Samira Awaad
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautifully told story about love.
Oct 04, 2016 added it
Got lost in the metaphors. Only read 1/2 the book
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Masterful write! It's contemporary Arabic Literature with wit, candour and somewhat dangerous. ...more
Notes of a Curious Mind
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
A sensual and gripping novel where women are ghosts, in life, in death, even in dreams
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صالون الجمعة: طوق الحمام | 4-2013 32 244 May 05, 2013 06:01AM  

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Raja'a Alem is a Saudi Arabian novelist from Mecca/Hejaz. She received her BA in English Literature and works as a tutor for the Center for Training Kindergarten Teachers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. ...more

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