This is an odd book that I expected to dislike, but actually I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Basically it tells of the eight months that Frances and her husband spend in Saudi Arabia while he works for an international company building a new ministry centre. But it is so much more..
Frances is a delightful character.... a tough, feisty feminist though one who is still very much a sixties colonial. She defers to her husband , whom she met while teaching in Africa, yet she asks questions and is keen to know what is happening around her. In particular she wants to know what is happening in the empty flat above them, who the stealthy men are who creep up and down their service stairs, why their flat was broken into with little of value taken and why the maid of the adjoining flat weeps all the time.
The background to this story is life for an ex-pat living in Saudi Arabia, and shows how difficult it is for western women to live within the same constraints and restrictions that their Saudi counterparts appear to accept . One example of this which infuriated Frances was that if she went shopping ….usually with her husband ,otherwise the religious police could challenge her....the shopkeeper would only speak to her husband not her.
It's a well written story , and my faith is restored in Hilary Mantel after my struggle with Wolf Hall.....perhaps she is worthy of being a prize-winning author after all.