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A gifted young storyteller presents an eye-opening, authentic and terrifying tale of illicit love in Saudi Arabia

Under the hot sun, the Jeddah streets make a scene from an old black-and-white movie: the women dressed like long, dark shadows and the men in their light cotton tunics. Naser’s friends have all left town for cooler climes but he can’t get away: he’s an outsider in Saudi and he needs to hold down his job at the local carwash. During his time off, he sits beneath his favourite palm tree, writing to the mother he has left behind in Africa and yearning for the glamorous Egyptian actress he hopes to meet one day. It’s hard to adjust to a world that puts up so many barriers between men and women: walls in the mosque, divider panels in the buses and veils on the street. Naser feels increasingly trapped, not least by the religious police who keep watch through the shaded windows of their government jeeps.

A splash of colour arrives in Naser’s world when, unexpectedly, a small piece of paper is dropped at his feet. It is a love note, from a woman whose face he has never seen and whose voice he has never heard. She tells him that she will wear a pair of pink shoes the next time she passes so that he can pick her out from the other women in their identical black abayas. Erotic tension runs high; Naser and his ‘habibati’ begin to exchange letters. But in moments of doubt the pink shoes seem to lead him into a cul-de-sac of thwarted desire, fraught with danger. Relationships between unmarried men and women are illegal under the strict Wahhibism of Saudi state rule – and it’s not long before their real, but illicit, love must face the hardest test of all…

Reviews

Heartfelt story of illicit love ... What's so interesting about Addonia's novel, though, is that it shows a man suffering from the consequences of the repression of women ... The frustration and loneliness he experiences living in a male-oriented world are powerfully depicted, as are the inertia, corruption and hypocrisy that flourish when morality is regulated by the state

Literary Review

This tale of forbidden passion is tense and provocative....Compelling

Maire Claire

An intense and moving glimpse into a world where love is an impossible dream

Times

The author allows his indignation to express itself through the thoughts of his characters, making us see their predicament as our own

The Times

Addonia's beautifully written debut is an affecting, gripping, devastating portrait of the claustrophobic, corrupt and insanely inhuman world of Saudi Arabia

Daily Mail

Beautifully written, with an imaginative and poetic narrative style

Aesthetica

Details of life in Jeddah and the sense of barely contained passion are compelling

Sunday Times

A dark and evocative testament to desire in an inhumane state

Independent

A simple story is elevated by Addonia's mastery of tension

Heather McRobie, Sunday Telegraph

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Formats & editions

  • EBook

    9781407016313

    September 1, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    352 pages

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  • Paperback

    9780099521143

    May 1, 2009

    Vintage

    352 pages

    RRP $19.99

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