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Stoning the Devil by Garry Craig Powell

Stoning the devilStoning the Devil is a novel set in the United Arab Emirates, a country of paradoxes, of seediness and glamour, of desert grandeur and Disneyland vulgarity, where public executions and other barbaric customs are winked at by the western expats who run the economy. There were several characters that appear in this what feels like a short-story collection but runs a common thread which links one character to another.

Colin, a professor of literature, is not the ‘typical’ expat, ignorant and interested only in pleasure and his stock portfolio, but a speaker of Arabic and an admirer of Arab culture – or is he? To his Arab wife, Fayruz, he is an Orientalist who exoticizes and patronises the locals, unaware of his latent racism. Colin’s students, Badria and cousin Alia seems to be infatuated with him and vying for his attention.

Fayruz, is a refugee from Lebanon. Scarred from the trauma of the civil war, weary of her husband, Colin’s, unfaithfulness decided to “strike out on her own”. Not finding her own means of making a living but retaliate in a similar way. Marwan and Randa a young couple is going through a tumultuous marriage, instead of sorting out their marital problems they both spent their times in social networking site.

Powell presents a set of characters living in the Arabian Gulf, none of them are fundamentalist stereotypes, you will be relieved to hear but nonetheless stereotypes in a different way. The stereotypes are that there is a lot of moral decadence behind the glitters of oil money and religious piety. There are illicit trade-off between beautiful women who are cash-poor who would service men who are cash-rich. The women in the novel are both victims and survivors.

The positive thing I can say about the book is that the writing is good and engaging. The idea of presenting the characters in short stories and link them up in a thread is clever.

Many books about Dubai is written by expats and it is the view of the expats that usually came out louder in the English publishing world. Therefore I can’t help but feel that books written about UAE is viewed in a tinted glass. The tone of the novel is very different than the one that is projected in Powell the author’s blog, whose people in the Gulf Arabs are: “people who led a simpler way of life and people who still eat together and talk, in a leisurely way, for hours and hours. If a friend of neighbour turns up at your house, you greet him or her and invite them in.”

Perhaps the key for me to truly understand a little bit more about the United Arab Emirates or Dubai is to read a few more books on the subject matter. I have Hello Dubai by Joe Bennett and I am interested to read Dubai: The Story of the World’s Fastest City by Jim Krane,  both non-fictions book which talks about socio-economical aspects of Dubai.

Have you read any books about the Gulf Arabs? Any recommendations?

Paperback. Publisher: Skylight Press 2012; Length: 149 pages; Setting: Dubai, UAE. Source: Author review copy. Finished reading at: 7 January 2013.

About the writer:

Born in England and educated in Cambridge University and Durham University, Garry Craig Powell is a fiction write and professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He has lived in Spain, Poland, Portugal, the USA and the United Arab Emirates.

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


14 thoughts on “Stoning the Devil by Garry Craig Powell

  1. My sister in law works in the United Arab Emigrates as one of two drivers for a very wealthy family. She has converted from Catholic to Islam since moving there.

    Posted by Mel u | January 19, 2013, 7:33 am
  2. Interesting book, Jo! I have never seen or heard of a novel / short story collection set in the UAE before. Egypt – yes, dozens of them. UAE – I think books are very rare. I also feel that an expat view of a particular country is one-sided and hides more things that it shows. Hope you enjoy reading the two Dubai books.

    Posted by Vishy | January 19, 2013, 7:19 pm
  3. Oh I have to read this! I was in the UAE for 13+ years but I had barely any contact with the locals. Nor have I read any book set there. It is true though that the expat perspective is very different from that of the locals.

    Posted by Athira | January 20, 2013, 11:32 pm
  4. You always pick up such interesting books. I have not read any books on UAE.

    Posted by Ti | January 20, 2013, 11:38 pm
  5. I review one book from Saudi and have another from there in my tbr pile ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | January 21, 2013, 5:54 pm
  6. I loved the opening paragraph of your review, Jo. So rings true! I don’t think I have read a book set in Dubai – somehow the city never fascinated me. But well, maybe I should read what doesn’t fascinate me.

    Posted by Soul Muser | January 26, 2013, 12:20 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

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Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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