When Frances Shore joins her engineer husband in Jeddah, she is warned not to ask questions. But bored, she begins to speculate about her neighbors and the empty flat above her. At first she believes the flat is being used as a lover's tryst - then she suspects something more sinister.
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Vintage Mantel, ahead of its time
Hilary Mantel is one of my favorite authors and this happens to be one my favorite works by her (it came along way before Wolf Hall). I first read it in print; like many of Mantel's works, this novel can be enjoyed from different angles so I always wanted to read it again...and ended up listening to it instead. The recorded version is excellent....and just as good as the print version. Personally, I got more out of the recorded version; this may be because the subtle changes in inflection by the narrator made certain important differences among the characters even more evident.
This is the story of English expatriate workers....the wife and narrator goes to Saudi Arabia to join her husband who is there on assignment. When the narrator arrives, she is an idealistic, young English working woman who is hoping to learn Arabic and get to know the culture. Her experience turns out to be rather different...and not precisely because of the reasons that we can all guess. There are a lot of undercurrents in this book, about closed cultures, chauvinism, cultural differences within cultures and the dangers of trying to help others when situations are not fully understood....
I particularly enjoyed the scenes when the narrators visits her neighbors and the conversations that ensue among the narrator and her neighbors. And we cannot forget the thriller aspect of this book...which is central to it. But one cannot say much about it without taking away from the mystery going on in the building where the narrator lives.
The men and women around the author keep on thinking her unbalanced because of particular events she is reporting to them which they do not want to see...Mantel makes the character's frustration palpable.
Don't miss this great read. It is no easy reading but it is certainly worthwhile and very much ahead of its time.
- Pita "Life long compulsive reader & lover of recorded books"
- Karol Andersson