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Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia Hardcover – October 15, 2009
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"This is high drama and an epic tale. Dazzling---on every level." ---Tom Brokaw --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Top customer reviews
Robert A. Hall
Author: "The Coming Collapse of the American Republic."
Whilst Lacey has included some small amount of social commentary, ie a brief discussion of same sex lesbian relationships, rape, the social repression of Saudi society the book is very much in the Great Man school of history so dont buy this book if your looking for a man on the street view of Saudi society. Otherwise it is excellent.
I dont know if Lacey will live long enough to produce a trilogy but it is also worth mentioning that this book will be interesting to pick up in 20 years to see if some of the factors Lacey identifies have come to fruition. For example he talks about King Abdullah taking a strategic decision to seek other allies to the United States in 2004 in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the decades ahead and how prescient Lacey has been on this score and others.
You won't find a more comprehensive book on Saudi Arabia from the beginning to the present.
The Saud's descend from Muhammad bin Saud who in the mid 18th century aligned with Muhammad al-Wahhab to create a religious-warrior nexus which provided the movement considerable impetus in conquering substantial territories beyond its traditional settlement in Riyadh. It wasn't until the ascendence of Ibn Saud that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed. A crucial alignment with the British and the discovery of oil ensured that the Kingdom had a good foundation to operate off.
The book itself has two sections largely due to the fact that much of it seems to be revised, and that seems to be the fundamental flaw in the narrative. The period pre-9/11 is covered beautifully- the siege of Mecca which gave the religious wing an upper hand, the Shia Intifada in the East, the alignments in the Gulf war. Its only 9/11 and post 9/11 that the author does not seem to be able to control what needs to be in the book and the latter quarter of the book reads like a hagiography of King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia is anachronistic in its social and democratic credentials- loads of money, but limited freedom to protest and significant restrictions on women (there are some interesting poignant anecdotes to back these in the book), what the book achieves is shed light on how the canny House of Saud has managed to balance the powers and yet manage the contradictions of modernity and traditional values. This is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the Kingdom
King Abdullah is now 89 years old. It is worth reading this book knowing that Saudi Arabia will continue to be a powerful influence in that part of the world.
Most recent customer reviews
At times, though, the reference to so many different characters makes it hard to digest.Read more