The title was intriguing. The cover was not. I am not sure why publishers use pink at all on the cover. It’s such a chick-lit cliché and – for many of us – a complete turn off. However, clearly the wise folk at Mary Egan Publishing know a thing or two about their target audience; and, anyway, my interest in this book went well beyond judging the book by its cover. The subject matter was quite personal. What was life really like for women in conservative countries like Qätär? Was it safe? Where were the threats for Western women who were used to greater autonomy over their lives?
At the time, a close family member, had recently accepted a 12-month contract with the Saudi Royal family. And yes, I know the countries are not one and the same, but they are immediate neighbours; and many of the entrenched rules and pitfalls of life under Islamic rule remain the same across the Middle East. I hoped, through the book, to live vicariously for a time; and to finish it with a renewed sense of hope that my loved one would be safe in Saudi. Well, no spoilers here, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out how it ends; for all I will promise is a book that belies the limitations of its cover.
Marguerette Hedding tells a good tale. All of her characters, from the expats to the Qätär elite leap off the page in three dimensions; and the promise of the title: that the veils will come off is fulfilled. And while much of this was new to me, anyone who has lived for a time in the exclusive confines of an ex-pat community will tell you that these are simply elite microcosms of the external world; peopled by individuals of all types: some pleasant and some ghastly. There’s the unfathomable bitch Hetta; larger than life Texan Skylar and down-to-earth Dora. And, behind the veils, the impressive Noora and her daughter Maryam, who defy the typical stereotypes we in the west often hold of the women of Islam.
Overall, it’s a fabulous romp and an engaging insight into a foreign place. I do have one further criticism, though. And that is that thorough editing of the book was lacking. Perhaps Hedding chose to forgo the services of an editor…For whatever reason, the book was riddled with small but nonetheless annoying errors; and – for me - this spoilt an otherwise great read.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli
Mary Egan Publishing