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Review – Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Nine Parts of Desire
Geraldine Brooks
255 pages
Published 1995

My book group chose Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks based on the recommendation of one person who read it in college and remembered liking it, but couldn’t remember what it was about. Knowing that Ms. Brooks’ other books have gotten excellent reviews, I thought this would be an excellent choice.


I wasn’t the only one irritated to find out this wasn’t fiction, and the lesson we (well, more like me, since I’m the one who heads it up) learned was that we shan’t be taking anyone’s recommendation without a little research if they can’t remember what the book’s about. A little  research is required when recommending a book.

I’m reluctant to say I enjoyed it, since that would be akin to avoiding a particular food all my life, tasting that particular food, and deciding I like it, realizing that I’d never even given that particular food a chance. Despite my enjoyment of Nine Parts of Desire, most likely I won’t be picking up any non-fiction (voluntarily) in the near future. I love to learn, LOVE TO LEARN, but for me, reading (books in particular) is for pleasure, enjoyment, and escape (I realize that this is not the case for everyone). Escaping to facts is not the same as escaping to fiction.

On to the book.

Nine Parts of Desire is Ms. Brooks’ attempt to understand why Muslim women take up the hijab and how the culture has slowly been eroding women’s rights, rather than furthering them. The author delves into the history of Islam, examining Muhammed and the subsequent attempt to interpret his messages.

Many subjects are examined, such as Muhammed, women in politics, genital mutilation, and Queen Noor. While the author was very good at staying objective, it was still difficult for her to understand why women would voluntarily submit to wearing the hijab.

My favorite part was the chapter on Queen Noor. She is a fascinating person, an American who met and fell in love with the King of Jordan, converted to Islam, and reigned with dignity and grace. Google her. Now.

Unfortunately, the person who’d recommended the book was unable to attend our book club meeting, so the discussion was lackluster. The problem with non-fiction, we felt, was that we couldn’t really discuss the author’s writing, the characters, plot development, etc. We briefly discussed what we liked and didn’t like, but as there’s nothing that we as white American women can do (seeing as how the Muslim women themselves can’t even effect change), there wasn’t much to discuss.

One of the book club members was able to find an anonymous critique of the book, but the critique didn’t hold much water, in our opinion. So the discussion fell a little…flat.

I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy non-fiction. Ms. Brooks has a compelling writing style and keeps up the pace. But for your book club? Maybe not.

Rating: 88 out of 100

You can find another review here.

| Tags: , , , , , 13 comments »

13 Responses to “Review – Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks”

  1. Ladytink_534

    Yeah, non-fiction is great but not for book groups unless you’re willing to have like a mini-lecture session.


  2. Ignorance

    I’m always astonished at the amount of knowledge you guys”really” have in the west concerning Arab women, hijjab and lifestyle.

    This is like the new rave- let’s pick anything related to Afghanistan or the Arab world, Muslim women, oppression & pain and you’ve got yourself a best-seller.

    Ironically when “we” pick these books up and read them we’re shocked just as much as you are. Last time I checked, I’m not genitally mutilated, neither oppressed nor forced to put a hijjab on my head.

    We’re living life like normal people, waking up in the morning, order take-out coffee/tea, we hook up bluetooth hands-free in our cars (yes shocking not camels), we arrive at work, laugh with our colleagues, get paid and buy ipods then go back home and watch TV.

    You want to “LEARN” about Arab women and how they function successfully in their societies, ask real arab women not rely solely on what’s written in some book or movie based on some rural muslim community that’s none-existent now adays but catchy enough to be turned into a book or a movie.


  3. Ignorance

    *and I’m talking about Arab women living in the Middle East not in your countries just to make things clear.


  4. Dianne

    A few years ago, I read a memoir about Queen Noir. She is truly an inspirational woman and the memoir was well written.

    I too don’t generally read non-fiction. Use reading as an escape of reality. But, I was glad that I made the exception.


  5. avisannschild

    I remember loving this book too when I read it years ago. I don’t remember it very well either!


  6. In Which I Defend Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

    […] 1, 2008 by trish Yesterday I posted my review of Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks. I didn’t get too much into specifics about the […]

  7. Corinne

    Wow. Anon. I can see why you’ve got your back up – I think we all have experiences where we want to be better understood. I feel that way when I hear conversations about Mormons sometimes – I want them to ask ME their questions instead of looking to books or the internet. It’s tough.

    Good review, by the way 🙂


  8. Lana

    I know you said you don’t read much non-fiction, and this probably wouldn’t necessarily be a good book for a book club discussion, but I really enjoyed reading Moroccan feminist sociologist Fatima Mernissi.

    I thought her book Scheherezade Goes West was very readable and extremely interesting. In case you’re interested :-).


  9. Teresa

    I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages–I’ll get to it eventually.

    It’s funny that your book club didn’t have much to say about it. My club seems to have its most stimulating conversations when we’re reading nonfiction–we don’t necessarily discuss the book so much as we discuss the issue considered in the book, but that’s often how it goes with our fiction choices, too.


  10. I Caused Quite a Show… « Over-Egg The Pudding

    […] Desire by Geraldine Brooks”. I commented under the nick name “Ignorance”. Click here to […]

  11. The Literary Horizon: May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons, Nine Parts of Desire « The Literary Omnivore

    […] the use of Koran quotes to show how some things are being twisted (much like other holy texts!). Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? doesn’t enjoy nonfiction, but did enjoy the book’s portrait of Queen Noor of Jordan. I […]

  12. Bookie Mee | Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks (1994)

    […] reviewed by Books in the City | Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? | Muse Book Reviews No Comments Tags: Australian, Middle East, nonfiction, religion, review […]

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