Hello, I picked up a book called The Story of Zahra by the female author Hanan Al-Shaykh. It was different than things I've read in the past, as expected. It's a novel and covers such themes as personal struggle (the heroine in the book is a bit unstable), political happenings (the war happening right outside of Zahra's front door in Lebanon), romantic/sexual relationships (Zahra is involved with different men, one being the man she marries while living in Africa), and other things.
In the Arab world, many consider this author to be a leading female novelist. The writing is very effective in making a reader feel the torment her character goes through. At times I cringed, sensing Zahra's troubled feelings. She really does some bizarre things at times; it was quite unexpected and added to the interest of the book. What will Zahra do next? I often wondered. Her family's behavior partially explains Zahra's odd personality. Despite her oddness, it was easy to feel for this character. As civil war rages outside, Zahra makes the decision to seduce the neighborhood sniper to draw him away from his ugly tasks.
The book gives an interesting look into this culture as well, but the main character and her intense emotions drive the story. Will her dreams come true? Will her painful past ever stop haunting her?
I'm glad I read The Story of Zahra even if I couldn't personally relate to Zahra. Hannan Al-Shaykh has done a wonderful job with character development.