From Publishers Weekly
Seemingly cursed to father only daughters in a society that devalues females, an Arab conceals the birth of an eighth girl by proclaiming the child, Ahmed, a son and heir. The tale that follows is a cynical, dreamlike exploration of the roles into which Arab men and women are shaped: shackles to some, yet a clear identity and a well-defined bridge connecting the individual to society. At first Ahmed takes a dark delight in "his" secret, observing to his mother scornfully, "You keep quiet and I give the orders. How ironic! How have you managed not to breathe the slightest seed of discontent into your daughters?" Later a madness descends on "him" and is chronicled in letters, a diary and a continually unwinding story with more than one ending. The fragmented, elliptical approach Jelloun takes to his subject is not entirely successful, but his narrative can be savored for its rich, incantatory prose.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Hauntingly poetic and original.
(Times Literary Supplement
Ben Jelloun, a writer of much originality, succeeds brilliantly in infusing his story with a melancholy that attaches itself not just to Ahmed but also to the Arab world.
Mythic, symbolic, at times even highly poetic... At the center of this magical tale the question of gender (and the tangential problems of race and culture) predominates... The ending is absolutely startling.
(Washington Post Book World