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Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia Hardcover – October 15, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lacey (The Kingdom) delves into the paradoxes in Saudi society—where women are forbidden to drive but are more likely to attend universities than men—and why this nation yielded most of the terrorist team on September 11, Osama bin Laden and one of the largest group of foreign fighters sent to Guantánamo from Afghanistan. Lacey's conversational tone and anecdotal approach to storytelling and analysis gives us a vivid portrait of personal and political life in Saudi Arabia's public and personal spheres, the traditions that govern everyday life, the country's journey from relative liberalism on the tide of extreme oil wealth in the 1980s to a resurgence of traditionalism. Lacey shows us a land where the governing dynasty gives rehabilitated Guantánamo returnees an $18,000 stipend toward their marriage dowry, and 15 young girls died in a schoolhouse fire in 2002 because they were not properly veiled, and religious police forbade them to escape and prevented firefighters from entering the burning building. Lacey's eye for sweeping trends and the telling detail combined with the depth, breadth and evenhandedness of his research makes for an indispensable guide. (Oct.)
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"This is high drama and an epic tale. Dazzling---on every level." ---Tom Brokaw --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Printing edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021185
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... to The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Sa'Ud which ends at the beginning of the `80's. At the beginning of his previous work, Lacey relates how a Georgetown educated member of the House of Saud told him that he had lived in the Kingdom for 30 years, and if he tried to explain the country, and how it worked, the best he could do is get a B+ on the paper, and therefore, Lacey, as an outsider, could only hope to earn a C. I disagreed, and in my review, said that Lacey deserved at least a B+, if not an A-. For this work, which covers the last 30 years, he deserves a solid A.

Lacey starts with "Angry Face," Juhayman, and his followers, including the expected "Mahdi," who seized the mosque in Mecca (Makkah) in 1979. (This event is also covered well by Trofimov, in The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine). The author selected a wonderfully appropriate epigraph for this section, from Dostoevsky: "Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer. Nothing is more difficult than to understand him." Lacey did a commendable job in explaining the grievances of those being overwhelmed by the "future shock" that was roiling the Kingdom as a result of the influx of money and foreigners (and their ideas) following the sharp increase in oil prices after 1973. This event, plus the revolt of the Shia, in the eastern town of Qateef, in the same year, had the net effect of nudging Saudi Arabia to a much more conservative governmental social policy, yes, in effect, co-opting a portion of Juhayman's agenda...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i would give the book itself, as it is, 5 stars, had it not been entitled and promoted the way it is

the title 'inside the kingdom', at least to me, somehow implies that we are about to be briefed in on special insights that come from someone who intimately knows the country and its people as an insider, or, in the case of saudi arabia, at least a semi-insider

on the front flap, the text reads 'with inside the kingdom, bestselling author robert lacey gives readers a remarkable portrait in full of this most enigmatic of lands', so that also helped to build up expectations that, eventually, did not materialize whatsoever

the book is little more than an extremely meticulously researched list of political events of the last 30 or so years, more or less in chronological order, and focussing almost exclusively on the royal al-saud family and their halo circle, and their significant political enemies within and outside saudi arabia

so far so good, and if that's what you are after, you will get it in excellence (in fact, the subtitle does narrow down the scope of the book), but do not expect real insider's knowledge. the book, for the best part of it, may have been written in a library anywhere in the world with good research facilities. the book is also very materialistic in the sense that it focusses on material events and, sometimes quite annoyingly, in such painstaking detail that i got the impression that digging up details had become to the author an end and not a means.
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Format: Hardcover
Saudi Arabia is the proverbial "man behind the curtain," the guy who exerts power, wields influence, and manipulates events but seeks to remain largely anonymous. Trouble is, Robert Lacey keeps pulling back the curtain to reveal the secrets and mysteries of this most peculiar kingdom.

Thirty years ago Mr. Lacey published a history of Saudi Arabia called "The Kingdom," a book, by the way, that the House of Saud elected to ban. Mr. Lacey's new tome basically picks up where the last one left off.

Mr. Lacey's prose is enjoyable and his book is well structured, describing and explaining events in a logical and chronological sequence with digressions and thematic developments where appropriate. And after reading his book, I have gained a renewed appreciation for the Law of Unintended Consequences. We learn that the Arab oil embargo, which was precipitated by U.S. support for Israel during the 1973 war, resulted in unprecedented prosperity in Saudi Arabia which, in turn, caused a backlash among Islamic conservatives, which fostered the growth of organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood where Osama Bin Laden found a home, who then went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, and so on and so on. Mr. Lacey also does a fine job of chronicling the evolution of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and the Royal Family's genuine fear of the Shia extremists that control the government of neighboring Iran. And he effectively buttresses his arguments with insightful anecdotes and telling vignettes.

The events in this book have been chronicled elsewhere--it doesn't contain startling revelations or previously undisclosed diplomatic secrets.
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