The stunning novel that explores the secret life of Mecca by the first woman to win the international prize for Arabic fiction.
When the body of a young woman is discovered in the Lane of Many Heads, an alley in modern-day Mecca, no one will claim it as they are all ashamed of her nakedness. As Detective Nasser pursues his investigation of the case, seemingly all of Mecca chimes in―including the Lane of Many Heads itself―in this brilliant, funny, profane, and enigmatic fever dream of a novel by Raja Alem, the first woman to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Nasser initially suspects that the dead woman is Aisha, one of the residents of the Area, and he searches her emails for clues. The world she paints embraces everything from crime and religious extremism to the exploitation of foreign workers by a mafia of building contractors, who are destroying the historic areas of the city. In stark relief with this grimness is the beauty of her love letters to her German boyfriend. Another view reveals the city through the eyes of Yusuf, Aisha’s neighbor, increasingly frustrated by the acceleration pace of change.
As gripping as classic noir, nuanced as a Nabokov novel, and labyrinthine as the alleys of Mecca itself, this powerful and disturbing work of fiction masterfully reveals a city and a civilization in all its contradictions, at once beholden to brutal customs and uneasily coming to terms with new traditions. Raja Alem’s singular The Dove’s Necklace is a virtuosic work of literature that deserves the world’s attention.
Rating: 5 stars
The Dove’s Necklace by Raja Alem is a captivating novel that will lure all readers to its great depth. A mystery that intrigues the soul to flip its pages in a haste to find out its secrets. What lies deep in this novel is a history that will blow readers away with every word. Raja Alem is indeed a talented writer with a way of bringing, to life, the murder, customs, and investigation that is portrayed in this stunning tale. The point of view is enjoyable. Told from an alley way’s point of view…was a brilliant idea. This sets readers, onto a journey, that will keep them hooked until the last page. Ever wondered about the city of Mecca and what secrets it keeps or the lives of the people? The Dove’s Necklace masterfully covers these and many more interesting questions that will surely rise as readers keep digging deeper into this powerful story.
Inside this riveting tale, The Dove’s Necklace, opens readers to the place where the danger and mystery begin. It’s also a place with tons of history such as wars, kingdoms, and customs that keep one’s mind buzzing with action. Raja Alem’s story is about love and revenge. Soon, readers are taken where a dead woman’s body lies…not only is she dead but also completely nude. No one knows the woman’s name…this scene and the people’s reaction to the dead woman’s body intrigues readers deeply. Who is she? Why her? Who killed her and why left nude? These questions and many others are answered but will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats as they rush through the pages with a burning intensity to find out the answers. I loved reading this Arabic story. Traveling all the way to Mecca without so much as leaving my seat was amazing. The raw beauty of the novel will hold readers in like prisoners…Intriguing, dramatic, and suspenseful…The Dove’s Necklace is a must read for all. Giving readers worldwide a glimpse into one of the most famous cities of all time.