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Only in London: A Novel
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Only in London: A Novel

2.86  ·  Rating details ·  530 ratings  ·  54 reviews
From one of the most highly regarded contemporary Arab writers, a wonderfully comic and touching novel about four people seeking love and liberty in London's burgeoning Arab community. ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Pantheon (first published 2001)
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Average rating 2.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  530 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
I wanted to like this more than I did. It had some wacky and very colorful characters (and a monkey!), and was a neat view into a particular slice of Arab life in London, but it just couldn't really hold my attention. (Fair chance this is the pandemic's fault for wrecking my brain, not Hanan's.) ...more
Jayne Charles
This novel concerns four people, three of them Arabs living in London, and an Englishman fascinated by Arabian artefacts. It looked quite promising, with its cast of interesting characters – none of the Arabs conform to stereotypes: one is a divorced woman, one a prostitute, the third is a transvestite who hangs out with a monkey.

It’s hard to describe why I found it a difficult read. It isn’t badly written, and interesting things happen throughout. But I think it was the randomness of the whole
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm somewhat annoyed with this book. I was REALLY looking forward to reading it, but it just didn't turn out how I thought it would. The novel switches from Lamis' story, to Amira's and then to Samir's in each chapter, which was a nice way of seeing how the character's lives intertwined, but the main thing that irritated me was we heard a LOT more about what was happening with Lamis, more than anoybody else. And, unfortunately for me, Lamis was my least favourite character, she never ceased to a ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
My expectations might have been too high for Hanan Al-Shaykh after having listened to parts of her "The Story of Zarah" on the Swedish national radio.

It is always interesting to see the familiar through the eyes of "the Other". I don't think this novel comes up to the level of, for instance, Sam Seldon's classics "The Lonely Londoners" and "Moses Ascending" (Caribbean) or Zadie Smith's "White Teeth", or Andrea Levy's "Small Island" (Jamaican) all of which describe experiences of immigrants in L
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was also apart of my Arab Female Lit class. It was fun and quirky. For me it was a series of 'coming of age' stories. This was a total CGS (Critical Gender Studies) book. There are themes of inter-racial/cultural dating, homosexuality, and prostitution. But the book doesn't come off as cheap or informative. The stories that unfold are very organic and they flow so well together. It's non-fictional accounts of different lifestyles that can happen 'Only in London' was a very entertaining ...more
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! I'm trying to read books, contemporary mainly, from Middle East and Arab countries. This is one of the few known Arabic women authors, from Lebanon. The book is funny and deep and I learned! ;) ...more
Apr 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I dont recommend it at all
Apr 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglo-library
It was an ok read. The books goes very fast since you're following the story of four different characters. It was interesting to get a dry small glimpse of part of the life in the Arab community in London, and how these particular characters have a relationship with the city they now live in and with their families back at home, which more times than not, tends to be a complicated one. All of the Arab characters are not accepted in their families, due to different circumstances, and they all see ...more
Tracy Macmillan
Second time reading this and it will be my last. Felt the characters lacked depth and their exploits were two dimensional. I only got to the end with the beautiful descriptions of London, one of my favourite cities in the world.
Book Worm
Jun 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trash
How did this author even mange to get a publisher and be ranked a a 'best selling' author? This book is sheer torture-monotonous boring, repetitive and lacks a story line...utter waste of time and paper. ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As I said--it was just OK. An easy read for me, with not a lot happening!!
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book.
Feb 06, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just not my cuppa tea. Dull story dull characters was glad to finish it.
Nohad Nassif
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an entertaining, fun to read story. Not much action or drama, but her writing, as always, was beautiful.
Monica Metzger
Nov 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No comments about this one. Simply – do not read!
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books where I know I read it and each sentence would make sense but I couldn't hold all the threads of the story together in my mind by the time I was done. ...more
Sara R Rizk
In the novel "Only In London" we meet the main characters on a plane from Dubai. They are from various Arab countries, thrown together when the plane hits some heavy turbulence. At Heathrow they take their separate paths, having exchanged telephone numbers, and for the rest of the book their paths cross. I didn't like this novel a lot because there were too many change of scenes in one chapter. The novel switches from Lamis' story, to Amira's and then to Samir's in each chapter, It got a bit con ...more
Oct 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring …….. Boring ……. Boring
It took me one whole week to finish the book
I like to finish what I started so I could not leave the book. In the same time I wanted to know what will happen to the monkey. It is about three Arabs met in Airplane from Dubai to Heathrow. They are struggling to cope with the life in London and trying to melt in to the new society in their own ways ignoring their roots.
It's more like 2.5.

I felt this book dragged on with pointless decorative writing for most of its body and suddenly picked up speed, in terms of quality, at the end, when it made a sharp swerve from episodic vignettes with no apparent relevance to the plot or to any overarching theme, to thick, inspired, meaningful writing in the last 20 pages or so which after all saved the book from being merely a collection of impressions on Arabic life in London and gave it a focal point and gravitas.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not my type of novel I'm afraid. Reminds me very much of Michael Ondaatje 's In the Skin of a Lion. Very post-modernist and disjointed.

Follows three Arabs immigrating into London, and how their stories combine. A few interesting social situations, but overall a bit too abstract to convey any real meaning.
Suncan Stone
I quite liked it but for some reason I picked it up at a moment when my reading was slow... but I do not think that it was slow due to the book... but then again, I also think it will not be one of those memorable novels, nor will this review I just wrote... I guess it is not the most helpful one ever...
Enjoyable, but not nearly as dynamic or as compelling as Women of Sand and Myrhh or Beirut Blues. Al Shaykh must know, of course, what it means to be an Arab woman in London--what it means to feel the cultural pulls of two disparate locations and to move between those poles--and yet this novel (to me) doesn't come across as poignantly or as powerfully as those set in Arab locations ...more
Apr 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sam
I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars. I'd give it a 2.5 on LibraryThing. I only started getting interested in all the characters near the end. It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't engaging enough to keep me reading except on my daily train rides. But maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I were Arab /and British. ...more
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book starts off quite well with the introduction of 4 people on a flight from Dubai to London. There are some humourous moments when they are adapting to life in London. Despite this I found midway through the book it didn't hold my interest. It was a bit of a disappointment. ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This books explores the lives of arabs from different parts of the region trying to cope to life in london .. it is not a study of any sort . it is funny at some parts, sad at others and some what revolting in one part.
Martha Sami
The book is about 4 main characters... only 1 of them is interesting and the rest are plain boring!

It's way too simple of a book... there was no interesting turn of events or characters development ... all I felt was blah!
May 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chick-lit
I had hoped this book would be similar to Desperate in Dubai but it wasn't, the style of writing was difficult to follow at times, maybe things were lost in translation, and the characters weren't especially interesting, maybe even slightly two dimensional. ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Colorful portrait of the Arab community in London, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes touching, with memorable characters.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, fiction
Four Arabic strangers meet on a plane from Oman to London.
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I remember really liking this, but I don't remember anything else about it. ...more
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Hanan Al-Shaykh (Arabic: حنان الشيخ) is a Lebanese journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright.
Al-Shaykh was born into a conservative Shia' Muslim family. She received her primary education in Beirut, and later she attended the American College for Girls in Cairo.
Al-Shaykh began her journalism career in Egypt before returning to Lebanon. She has also lived in Saudi Arabia and is curr

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