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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street


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About the Author

Hilary Mantel was born in Derbyshire. She was educated at a convent and later studied law. After ten years abroad in Africa and the Middle East, she returned to Britain in 1985 to make a career as a writer. She is working on her ninth novel


Both of these volumes offer some unusual doings. Change (1994) finds a former missionary wife and husband dealing with the latter's affair. The incident brings up a hidden evil the couple encountered in Africa 20 years earlier, of which neither one spoke. Ghazzah Street (1988) has protagonist Frances Shore relocating to Saudi Arabia. In her apartment each night she swears she hears weeping and voices in the apartment above her, but her neighbors insist it is empty. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

'A peculiar fear emanates from this narrative: I dread to think what it did to the writer herself.' Anita Brookner, Spectator'A Middle Eastern Turn of the Screw with an insidious power to grip.' Robert Irwin, Time Out'A memorably appalled and hellishly funny novel.' Christopher Wordsworth, Guardian'A stunning Orwellian nightmare.' Literary Review

Set in Saudi Arabia during the boom created by soaring oil prices in the 1980s, this sinuously crafted tale by Hawthorndon Award winner Mantel (for An Experiment in Love) uses the outsider status of a British woman and the minutiae of her daily life to mask and eventually reveal a chilling situation. Mantel builds a sense of disorientation, claustrophobia and paranoia in rendering the abysmal quotidian existence of Frances Shore. A cartographer, Frances has followed her civil engineer husband, Andrew, to the Red Sea port Jidda, where he is engaged in a lucrative construction project. Shunning the expatriate housing compound, the Shores move into a grim four-flat building on Ghazzah Street. Shut out from practicing her profession by the severe, ultra-sexist legal code of Saudi Islam, Frances writes in a journal and observes a domestic scene that comes to seem more and more ominous as she struggles to define the ever-shifting line between private morality and public order. A nonperson in the Muslim world, Frances is unable to break through a wall of prejudice about Westerners to come to a common understanding with her neighbors. She becomes hyperconscious of suspicious goings-on in their building, including a shadowy figure carrying a gun in the hallway. This story of a place where puzzles are "more apparent than real" ends provocatively with more questions than answers. Mantel's relentless pounding away at Frances's stultifying life offers a bit of misdirection, enabling the mystery to sneak towards its conclusion with disconcerting stealth. With marvelously understated wit, Mantel chronicles a world of teas and dinner parties that eventually coalesce into a sinister story of horror just beyond a veil. (Aug.) FYI: Mantel was only the third woman to win the Hawthorndon award in its 80-year history.

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