The Pact We Made by Layla Alammar ****
Beautifully written debut novel about a wealthy young Kuwaiti woman struggling with a burgeoning anxiety disorder, who is being put under pressure from her mother to marry before she turns 30 but who only wants to escape her seemingly perfect life and live life on her own terms. However she can't even leave the country without her father's permission.
This is a really interesting insight into a way of life where traiditon and modern living are clashing. Very enjoyable read.
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi ****
Set in Oman, this is the story of three sisters and their journey to get married - another story of traditional values in a modern world. Beautifully written, it won the International Booker Prize in 2019.
When I was in my twenties I lived for a short while in Dubai and had the privilege once of being invited to a local wedding where I sat with the women as the bride was being painted wiht henna. She was to be the fourth wife of a local sheikh which I found shocking - not sure if that's still a practice. The older women were very curious about my freckles and wanted to examine my skin, while I was equally curious about being able to meet them without their face coverings and the traditions around the wedding but I was very young and didn't have the language to ask many questions.
This book answers some of those questions - it is a behind the scenes look at an Arabic way of life and the expectations on young women in that world.