This acclaimed novel is set during the Lebanese Civil War and offers a rare depiction of women’s experiences amid this sprawling, region-defining conflict. In Alawiya Sobh’s hands, the details of everyday life mix with female voices from across classes, sects, and generations to create an indelible picture of a climate where violence and war are the overt outbreak of a simmering tension that underlies the life in the region. Here, stories struggle to survive the erasure of war and rescue the sweetness of living, trying to connect the tellers and their audience while transforming pain and love into abiding, sustaining art. Rendered sensitively into English through a close collaboration between author and translator, Maryam offers an unforgettable picture of conflict and its costs.
‘One of the most important women novelists in Lebanon [. . .]. Rich with everyday detail, Sobh’s work is not only an illumination of an important period at a new scale but also a unique meditation on the nature of storytelling.’—Arab Weekly
‘Sobh is an author of remarkable skill and range. She elegantly strings together a love for writing and incisive observations of society’s restrictions on women. The stories told inside this novel traverse an equally diverse range of topics from love, female friendship, loss, and survival. Sobh’s language effortlessly delivers and engages the reader in the varied emotions carried by these topics as it billows and patters and spirals just like the country she describes.’—World Literature Today
‘This novel doesn’t just tackle the content of Lebanese women’s lives. Its form—1,001 Nights-esque, interlinked tales—is also womanish. The action doesn’t follow the forward-marching masculine world of politics and business. Even when women protest or pick up weapons, the narrative stays focused on the circularity of relationships. The book also gives respectful attention to village superstitions, soap operas, and other “low” genres associated with women. Maryam is thus like Elena Ferrante’s globally popular Neapolitan novels in that it places women’s friendships at its center.’—ArabLit