Sam Woodfield's Reviews > In the Kingdom of Men

In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
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's review
Jul 01, 2012

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Read from July 01 to 10, 2012

So I'm a little confused about how I feel about this novel, being unsure if I enjoyed it or not, and thats quite an unusual feeling having just read a book - I normally know what I think and find it easy to say if I like it or not, but this has confused me.
The novel follows Gin McPhee and her husband Mason as they move from middle America to Arabia in the early days of oil drilling in the Gulf. As Mason is away for long periods on the rig, Gin has to adjust to life as an American wife in an Islamic state, and the confinement this brings. However, unhappy with being cooped up in a compound, Gin begins to push the limits of what she can get away with, and finds herself, and those around them in trouble, and as Mason uncovers dodgy dealings within the oil company, things take a turn which will change their lives forever.
The start of this novel is full of promise. The opening lines of "Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I'm a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that. Here is the second thing: that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove - my husband didn't kill her, not the way they said she did" really set this up to be a gripping novel, with elements of murder mystery throughout, and I was really excited by the prospect of reading the novel. So when I got half way through and had no whif of mystery I started to wain a little, three-quarters of the way and I was almost disengaged. So when there finally was some twist to the story, I was not interested and really disappointed with the course it took.
But here is my confusion - I really loved the characters in this novel. I thought Gin was a really interesting woman, and those people around her within the compound - the other wives, the houseboys and Bedouin men - were really fascinating and really drew me into life within the compound. I thought the detail of life for women within that environment was really interesting, and the ways in which Gin pushed the boundaries of women can and can't do really got me interested in the story. I loved it!
So for me, the issue with this novel is the promise that the opening brings which takes so long to materialise it's flat when it does, because without this, it's a really brillinat novel about the lives of women in that time and place and is really engaging. I think the twist would work if it weren't for the promise of so much. And so thats why I'm confused, because I loved this novel but at the same time really felt disappointed.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sonia I was confused too. The book didn't impress me enough to spend too many brain cells reconciling the confusion. I've moved on.

Marketa I was also disappointed in the ending. I was wondering if it is because the author was going to write a sequel.

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