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Celestial Bodies

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  3,406 ratings  ·  739 reviews
Winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize

In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.

These three women and their families, their losses
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Catapult (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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 ·  3,406 ratings  ·  739 reviews

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Angela M
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the winner of the 2019 International Man Booker Prize and that was one of the things that drew me to read this book. The other was that while I’ve heard of Oman, I didn’t know much about it, except that it was in the Middle East. I had to look at a map to see exactly where. I ended up having mixed feelings about it. A family saga in a way spreading over decades, there is a focus on three sisters and the on how they accept or don’t the marriages their family decides for them. The narrativ ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019

I am a little unsure what to make of this one.

I knew very little of Oman and its history, so that side of it was quite interesting, and some of the stories were quite moving, but overall it seemed to lack direction, and although the component stories are all part of a wider family story stretching over several generations, the organisation seems a bit random, which made it rather confusing. The family tree at the start didn't help
Paul Fulcher
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now winner of the 2019 Man Booker International

An interesting choice by the judges, a book whose strengths lie in its deep cultural insights and clever construction.

The moon is the treasure house for what is on high and what lies below. The moon moves between high and low, between the sublime and the filth of creation. Of all the celestial bodies, the moon is closest to the matters of this lower world.

Celestial Bodies has been translated by Marilyn Booth from Sayyidat al-qamar (literal translation: Ladies of the Moon), the 2nd novel by Omanconstruction.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jibran by: Antonomasia
Shelves: booker-intl, arabic
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019

Life appeared to her sharply divided in two parts, like night and day: what we live, and what lives inside of us.

It would not be an exaggeration to call this novel a microcosm of modern Oman. It takes a wider view of the monumental changes that have taken place at turbo speed in the Omani society during the last fifty years or so, told through the story of three or four families drawn from different social classes, who navigate the troubled w/>Life
Vivek Tejuja
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing about being on any shadow panel of any literary award is that you by default get to read great diverse literature. Being on the shadow panel of Man Booker International Prize for two years now has made my literary life so to say not only enriching but also illuminating. It has made me see perspectives, change opinions, remain steadfast about some opinions, and over all made me interact with people across the world about literature and life.

This time around, Celestial Bodies
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2019 International Booker Longlist
The beginning of Celestial Bodies is set in the 1970s but, as a cloistered young girl sews, her romantic longing expressed in tones resembling those of courtly love, it feels almost like medieval historical fiction. Oman has, over the last 40-50 years, experienced dizzyingly rapid cultural and technological change, and the novel explores this through the stories of three families linked by marriage and servitude.

Initially, I found it difficult to understand where characters were in history, so to ori
Gumble's Yard
Now deserved winner of the Man Booker International Prize.

She began to realise that there was no way she could be Khalid’s other half, once upon a time sundered but which (he assured her) he had now found. This was because Khalid, on his own, took on the likeness of a celestial sphere complete unto itself, orbiting only along its already defined path.

It is published by the Ross-shire based small publishers Sandstone press who “are an independent publisher with an international outlook, producing i
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies paints a vivid portrait of Omani society as it grapples with the cultural and social changes precipitated by its transition into a modern society. The tension between late twentieth-century values and behaviors with those of the present is played out in the lives, marriages, and relationships of three generations of an affluent Omani family. Threaded throughout the novel are details about daily life and the interp ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One reason why I follow the Man Booker International is because it is a passport to different countries. In the case of Celestial Bodies, the author, and setting of the book is Oman, a country I know nothing about. I like it even more when an author goes into depth about the country’s traditions. Luckily this happens in Celestial Bodies.

The novel is a cleverly structured family saga. Within the three generations there’s lost loves, forced marriage, cheating, wayward children, disappo
Abbie | ab_reads
3.5 stars
Thank you so much @sandstonepress for sending me Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi in my attempt to read ALL the translated works from the Man Booker International long-list - and a huge congrats on this one being shortlisted! I enjoyed it, and I think had I read it when I was not working 13 days in a row with zero time to read I would have loved it a lot more.
I read the first 100 pages over 4 whole days and for me, 25 pages a day is just not enough to get into the f
I postponed this review for over a week in order to mull things over with my IRL bookclub, after which it seemed wise to add an extra half star. This reinforces to me that it is often a rewarding experience to be pushed towards books that I might have skipped and that a good old chin-wag about them is endlessly helpful.

I will admit my reactions while reading Celestial Bodies were mixed. The main issue, let us call it "narrative shenanigans" is compounded by a family tree diagram that despite
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
Edit: this is now a Man Booker International Prize winner. So chuffed for everyone involved. Especially the small publisher taking such risks with regards to translating books!

As always when reading a book for Read Around the World Bookclub, the journey is often interesting even if the destination can be a bit hit and miss. This month, we travelled to Oman with this recent release (by a small Scottish Press no less).

I knew nothing about Oman and the fact that I googled thinks like "slavery"
Barry Pierce
It usually isn't a great omen when you see that a 243-page novel begins with a family tree. Every single branch of that tree fights for your attention in this muddled but admirable novel. It takes a hugely skilled writer to try to weave the tapestry that this novel wants to be but Alharthi is not that writer. She perhaps isn't helped by Marilyn Booth's translation which often reads like a direct translation of the original Arabic and thus falls completely flat even when the story turns fantastic ...more
H.A. Leuschel
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written family saga that opened my mind to Oman's history and its people that I knew very little about .... until now.
Jonathan Pool
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
The translation and publication of a book centered on Oman, written by a woman, is noteworthy in its own right.
Jokha Alharthi opens the door to a patriarchal, concealed world. It’s not a full expose, but it’s fascinating. Celestial Bodies is a worthy winner of the Man Booker International Prize (2019).
The essence of the story is the change ongoing in the country of Oman and specifically the contrast between secular Muscat, a coastal enclave with its own history based around exposu
Eric Anderson
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I get so excited whenever I start a novel that begins with a family tree. Something about the style of a family saga really appeals to me in the way it traces how individuals function both independently and as part of a family. “Celestial Bodies” mainly focuses on the stories of three sisters in modern day Oman, but it also presents a number of perspectives of different family members and people connected to that family. Like Sara Taylor's novel “The Shore” it also moves backwards and forwards in time ...more
Katie Long
I always get excited to read an author from a part of the world that I am not so familiar with. I love reading a point of view that I’ve never seen before, so I really thought I would love this. The concept is great, but there are just too many characters and timelines here. I can see that Alharthi is intending it all to read as rich and complex, but for me it came off more muddled and confused.
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
The moon is the treasure house for what is on high and what lies below. The moon moves between high and low, between the sublime and the filth of creation. Of all the celestial bodies, the moon is closest to the matters of this lower world. And so it is the guide to all things. Contemplate the state of the moon until you know it well. Its soundness is the strength of all things, its ruin the corruption of all things. If the moon moves closer to another celestial body then it gives more force to
Lynne King
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019

Having lived in Saudi Arabia for sixteen years, I was looking forward to reading Jokha Alharthi's book on Oman, especially Muscat, a place I always wanted to visit but never did.

But what a disappointment reading this book! I cannot believe that the author has won the Man Booker International Prize 2019. I'm always rather nervous about translations but evidently the translator Marilyn Booth is excellent and so I should imagine she
Sidharth Vardhan
When it comes to diversity, International Man Booker presents nice trends - 3 of 4 winners have been from the third world and 3 have been women. That said, it ain't the most deserving one in my arrogant opinion - Annie Ernaux's 'The Years' is the best of 5 books listed in the long list this year that I have read.

The summary saying it is the story of 3 sisters might suggest it is a family story - which it is, but it manages to capture a lot of Onami life including the slave trade, pol
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mbi-2019
But the one text she had found truly memorable and compelling was the passage she had memorized without even really understanding what it meant. Something about spirits or souls that were perfectly round once upon a time but had been split apart. For as long as they were separated they would search out their other half until they found it. That is how she imagined love: a meeting of spirit-twins.

Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies, translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth, taps into the age-old theme of l
Roman Clodia
After a promising opening chapter, I struggled with this book. Ok, the mosaic-like structure of fragmented voices is never my favourite novelistic form but I think the breaking point for me is the amount of telling that Alharthi does: 'London wasn't blind. She did see all the signs, but she wouldn't let her mind accept them'. It just left me feeling that all the stories here are simplified as they are interpreted via the narrative voice and there's little work for the reader to do in understanding the ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2018
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, there are three sisters who are choosing different paths for their future. Mayya and Asma have taken the decision to marry, one out of duty, one after the man she loved broke her heart. The third sister, Khawla, heads to Canada after her beloved emigrated there. As Oman society goes through the changes from a traditional, slave-owning society, and into its current modern and complex version, Mayya gives birth to a girl. Rather than choose from the traditional ...more
Viv JM
I never really warmed to this book. I found the constant switching between characters and time periods confusing and fragmentary, and there was no coherent story arc that I could perceive. I can appreciate that the book portrays the upheaval of rapid cultural and societal changes in the country of Oman but it just never really drew me in and I never made a connection with it.
My first book by an Omani writer . Seeing it is Man International Booker, I was quite keen to read it. The initial half was good , I was getting to know the characters , though haphazardly, but the latter half didn't improve . The confusion and anarchy worsened. And around 70 percent through I lost interest as to what the characters think and do. My only aim was to finish reading the book as I had already invested lot of time in it.
The story of 3 sisters who struggle to find their niche in
Inderjit Sanghera
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story takes place within the sleepy village of al-Awafi in Oman, against which the lives of three sisters and their families play out, the tremulous beats of their lives playing out beneath the star-filled sky of the Omani desert. The key theme within 'Celestial Bodies' is one of love and loss; from familial love to romantic, love is the globe against which the lives of the other characters revolve, at times violently, at others lackadaisically or the calm epiphany of a father as he discover ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4- It is my constant aim to read more books by authors who don’t write in English. I am always glad when I do: I don’t want to overemphasize the Otherness (it’s not that I’m on the hunt for the ‘exotic’), but these books almost always feel refreshing. The histories and cultures are different, the rhythms of the language, sometimes the preoccupations of people. Although the people, they are the same - as is great writing and wisdom.

This is a thoughtful, rather slim book that is told i
May 22, 2019 marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition

First female Omani novelist to be translated into English shares £50,000 prize with translator Marilyn Booth – the first time an Arabic book has won
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-mbi, 2019
Just about the first thing you see when you open this book is a diagram of a family tree. I strongly suggest that you photocopy this (or, if reading an ebook, find a way to print it) and have it by your side while you are reading. It is invaluable for at least the first half of the book: by that point, I had it fixed in my head and knew the characters and their relationships, so I could stop looking at it. Not every character in the book is on the family tree, but most of them are and you will a ...more
A glimpse into the blurb will tell you that 'Celestial Bodies' is a story of three sisters - Asma, Khwala and Mayya, and their respective reasons for marriage. As the book opens its embrace, we are sucked into Oman in transition and what other way to go about it than to follow the story of these characters. As they grow and move about, changing jobs and homes, Oman's tumultuous present changes too. There is a sad undertone that usually accompanies change of any kind, an undertone filled with reg ...more
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Jokha al-Harthi (Arabic: جوخة الحارثي; born July 1978) is an Omani writer and academic. She was educated in Oman and in the United Kingdom. She obtained her PhD in classical Arabic literature from Edinburgh University. She is currently an associate professor in the Arabic department at Sultan Qaboos University.

al-Harthi has published three collections of short stories and three novels
“Aah, the books! The thought of the enormous pleasure of books quickened Asma’s pace. It was a good moment to lose herself in their joys.” 1 likes
“about spirits or souls that were perfectly round once upon a time but had been split apart. For as long as they were separated they would search out their other half until they found it. That is how she imagined love:” 1 likes
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