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Only in London by [al-Shaykh, Hanan]
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Only in London Kindle Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A chance meeting of four strangers on a turbulent plane ride from Dubai to London sets the stage for this fourth novel by acclaimed Lebanese author al-Shaykh (Women of Sand and Myrrh; Beirut Blues). Lamis is an Iraqi woman who has just divorced her much older husband, a man she moved to London to wed in an arranged marriage. Amira is a sassy and resourceful prostitute from Morocco, who plies her trade in the upper-class hotels of Mayfair. Samir is a flamboyant gay Lebanese man who is smuggling a monkey into the country for cash. Nicholas is an Englishman working for Sotheby's who travels frequently to Oman and has a fascination with the Arab world. Back in London, their lives become busily intertwined. As Lamis negotiates her independence in a country she wants desperately to feel a part of while also maintaining ties with her adolescent son, who lives with his father she begins an affair with Nicholas, whose love and urge to shelter her begin to threaten her new sense of self. Amira and Samir, meanwhile, form a partnership of their own. He moves in with her and chases good-looking young men, while trying to forget about the reality of his wife and five children back in Beirut; she concocts a scheme of masquerading as an Arab princess to attract a grander clientele. The themes of Eastern and Western identity, love, sex, independence and freedom are deftly woven into the lives of four vivid characters whose antics tumble into comedy as often as into drama. Busy, gossipy and chock-full of unexpected cultural insights, this tale should entertain readers as diverse as the Arab expatriates it depicts. (Oct. 9)Forecast: Al-Shaykh should pick up more U.S. readers with this confident, entertaining novel.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Among the most celebrated contemporary Arab writers, Lebanese-born al-Shaykh (I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops) returns to London in her latest work, a comical but poignant novel that draws multiple distinctions between Arab and British cultures. After the narrative's quirky foursome meet during a turbulent flight from Dubai, their lives slowly intermingle as they seek happiness, companionship, and prosperity with one another. The colorful, cross-dressing Samir moves in with Amira, a Moroccan prostitute posing as an Arab princess. Recently divorced, the young Iraqi Lamis pursues her newfound freedom, albeit ambivalently, and becomes the lover of Nicholas, a Sotheby authority on Islamic artifacts. East-West dissimilarities create the most trouble for Lamis, but the vigor and fortitude with which al-Shaykh endows all four steer them through all the possible perils of cultural clash. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Lib. Syst., Eugene
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 665 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU4SVY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,880 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Anne on January 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a woman writer from the Arab world who openly explores such taboo subjects as women's sexuality and gay/lesbian relationships, Hanan al-Shaykh has become something of a darling among the cultural left. Intrigued by an interview with al-Shaykh that aired last spring on CBC Radio (Canada) as part of a series about writers from the Islamic world -- and seduced by the delightful cover art (a personal weakness) -- I put my money down eagerly as soon as the paperback edition of "Only in London" became available.
This novel promises to show us the "other" London as it is seen through the eyes of its Arab immigrants. What the four main characters see and experience there, however, could take place not "only in London" but in any other large European or North American city with a large immigrant population. London is nowhere to be found in this novel and perhaps its Arab characters -- and al-Shaykh herself? -- are such outsiders that this becomes the point. Lamis, the Iraqi divorcee sees the city from the inside of her own flat and that of her lover's and makes only minor excursions outside to obvious London landmarks and institutions. Amira, the Moroccan prostitute, familiarizes herself only with the haunts of her wealthy Arab clients. Samir, the frustrated homosexual, never ventures far beyond the Middle Eastern shops and restaurants at the heart of London's Arab community.
Nicholas, the one English character in the novel, is a true enigma. A specialist in Islamic art who works for Sothebys, he appears to be interested in Lamis as just one more acquisition from the Oriental world that intrigues him. But on the flip side of the same coin, Nicholas himself fears that his lover is only interested in him for what he represents: the "typical Englishman".
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Format: Hardcover
I'm stunned more people haven't commented on this book...
Through the lives of four passengers returning to London from the Arab world, Lebanese author al-Shaykh displays a deep concern with issues of exile, memory, language,freedom, desire, and ultimately identity. Each of the three main Arab characters have spent most of their lives playing roles. Lamis, a newly divorced 30-year old Iraqi, is returning to London where she's lived for twelve years in to pick up the pieces of her life after briefly fleeing to Dubai after her divorce. Having thrown off her stifling life as a young trophy wife to a wealthy older man, she's unsure how to maintain her role as mother and what to do with her life.
Amira is a high-end Moroccan prostitute who is coming to the realization that her looks won't last forever. She embarks on a comic and cunning scheme to pose as a princess in a royal family in order to con wealthy Arab men out of large sums of cash. She helps monkey-smuggling newcomer Samir navigate Arab London. He's a Lebanese man who has concealed his homosexuality for years by marrying and fathering five children. Released in liberated London, his flamboyant and cross-dressing nature comes bubbling up to great comic effect. The final piece of the puzzle is Nicholas, a British employee of Sotheby's, who is also an antiquities consultant for an Omani prince.
The lives of the foursome intertwine, with Lamis and Nicholas falling in love. Their relationship forms the nominal core of the book, and while Lamis' inner turmoil and fears, social awkwardness, and cross-cultural problems come across pitch perfect, Nicholas remains a bit of an enigma, and is the most unsatisfying of the characters. At the same time, Samir moves in with Amira to become her majordomo while pursuing young men.
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By AnnieW on December 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I became familiar with the author through the same CBC radio interview that another reviewer cited. The synopsis of this book sounded interesting and I was in the mood for some light reading, so gave it try. Since I was reading on a Kindle I don't know what page I gave up on it. My thought was that life is too short to get stuck reading a mediocre book. I found the characters uninteresting and the writing flat. I realize it was translated, so perhaps some of the blame goes to the translator.
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Format: Hardcover
I was expecting the author to bring more light into the London's other side. She was just decribing the life of a certain category of immigrants that could happen in any part of the world...
I would have liked for her to go deeper in her description of the characters. Sometimes she just touched the surface, they had more to say and share with us, but Hanane did not give them the opportunity.
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By A Customer on June 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book was wonderful. Though it was originally written in Arabic, the novel does not seem to have lost anything in the translation. It was definitely a page turner, and therefore I highly recommend it.
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