Nine Parts Of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Nine Parts Of Desire - An interesting read where you will learn much more about what it's really like to be a  Muslim Woman.

This is a great insight into the many muslim women who live behind their veils.

It will challenge your current, no doubt, stereotypical views of these ladies.

The male dominated world in which most of them live, will also sadden and disturb you.

It is to some extent a little depressing but there are chapters that are more uplifting that will give you some hope!


Geraldine Brooks pretty much does a tour of the middle East focusing on Iran, Saudi Arabia and then even heading into Ethiopia.

She tries her very best to give an unbiased view of life for these ladies (slightly difficult as she is after all from a western culture) and her journey covers a wealth of different experiences and lives.

Many of the stories are depressing and shocking (including female circumcision) whilst others show women loving their daily routine of chores, meditation and prayer.

Some stories are uplifting - the women's games for insistance.

What is perhaps most shocking is the insight it gives us to the Islamic religion.

The discovery that the Islam texts and prophets words have been manipulated to ensure the suppression of women. The book is actually called "Nine Parts of Desire" because the prophet Ali declares that god created desire in 10 parts and gave 9 parts to women. An interesting fact given most of these stories show the limitations put on these women.


Differing Roles of Men And Women

The MOST insightful aspects of Nine Parts of Desire is reading of the contrasts in the treatment of Muslim women as wives, mothers & part of an extended family,  in various parts of the world, especially the Muslim world.

How typical that the rules for women change according to time, history & country. eg. page 24   1935 - 1941 "Women who wished to veil were derided as backward."

BUT this also happened here in England after the First World War; for the first time in history, women were expected to go out to work for the War Effort & however liberating this was, they were expected to go back to the kitchen afterwards.  Most changes for women came after this time eg.The vote etc.

As a contrast, the author tells us about Queen Noor. Her portrayal of Queen Noor is sympathetic & extremely interesting. What a woman in a man's world!


This is a major theme running throughout Nine Parts of Desire

The wearing of the veil is more about eroticism than politics or religion. It's interesting that most of the rules concerning Muslim women can't be traced back to The Prophet, infact, we are told in ch. 2 that in The Koran,  women are instructed to enjoy sex along with men. And there is nothing in there about the stoning to death of women for adultery. (p48)  There is so much hypocrisy in the name of religion.

How interesting to read so much about Mohamed & his family though it would seem that many of the rules of Islam don't come from him. There is a lot of folklore, handed down through the centuries. Infact, we felt that some of what Geraldine tells us borders on soap operas & playground quarrels.


What have you learned about Muslim Women?

What shocked you most in Nine Parts Of Desire?

How do you think these stories differ from the Muslim women living in western cultures?

Is Geraldine Brook's writing unbiased? Why or why not?

Are women in  the western world treated equally to men? Why or why not?


Overall our book club liked this book giving it a 7/10. It is quite a depressing read at times, although there are some uplifting chapters.

Geraldine Brooks tries her best to keep her writing unbiased. There are glimpses of hope, such as Margaret's enjoyment of her role; the new, marvellous school for girls in Jedah; the group of Iranian women in ch.12; the lighter interaction between husband & wives in Palestine.

BUT she doesn't really pull it off. She tells it how it is but what she tells is very limited in our opinion.

On p 17, she writes, "I began to feel I'd been locked up  by mistake in some kind of convent hell." This mood along with evocative language, permeates the book  inspite of meeting & befriending many Muslim women. Her description of sitting beside a Muslim woman on a beach in OZ, says it all.

She tries to deal with an enormous subject in a short book & some of our book club members aren't sure that she pulls it off. She only scratches the surface & manages to fill everyone with pessimism. Whilst in our society over the last 100 years  we have seen huge improvements for women, according to Geraldine, the role of  Muslim women is going backwards; eg. the return of the veil is more evident worldwide with the resurgence of Muslim Fundamentalism, a fact we all know to be true.

What perhaps would have been a nice addition is to  give us some statistics on the fate of our own women at the hands of men regarding human rights, job opportunities or finances. I know that wasn't the purpose of her book but we should be aware of the woman's role world wide not just Muslim women.

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