July YOU reading group

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea (Penguin, £7.99)

Girls of Riyadh

This fascinating and revealing novel will take you to places that no guide book can reach: behind the veils and into the lives of four young women in Riyadh, capital of the Islamic world’s most repressive society.

Billed as a Saudi Arabian Sex and the City, the unnamed narrator chronicles the struggles of her 20-something girlfriends and the clever tactics they use to lead more liberated lives: gutsy Sadeem, hard-working Lamees, homely Gamrah, and half-American Michelle. All belong to the country’s so-called velvet class, the super-wealthy elite who are happy to send their daughters to university yet expect them to conform to restrictive religious traditions – they aren’t allowed to drive, for instance, and it is forbidden to meet a man in public to whom they are unrelated.

But behind the scenes, the girls are busy bending those same rules, sneaking out on dates and lapping up American TV shows. Most subversively of all, they are trying to control their own destinies. First published in 2005, the book was immediately banned in Saudi Arabia, sending it rocketing up the bestseller lists wherever it was available. But while busting one set of conventions, it conforms wholly to another: those of the hugely enjoyable page-turner that is destined to get sand in its spine and suntan lotion all over its well-thumbed jacket this summer.


You can buy Girls of Riyadh for just £3.99, plus 99p delivery. To order, call 0845 606 4204, or visit you-reading-group.co.uk, where you can read an extract from the book and find suggested topics for discussion. You can also order from the YOU Bookshop, Parc Menai, Bangor LL57 4FB, making cheques payable to YOU Bookshop.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now