In the Kingdom of Men, Paperback Book

In the Kingdom of Men Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Imagine the period glamour, sexual inequality and daytime drinking of Mad Men set in a country where women aren't allowed to look at men and alcohol is illegal.

Raised by her grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, in a two-room shack, Gin McPhee never imagined she'd have a husband she loved and a houseboy making her breakfast. When Mason takes a job at the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia, Gin becomes a company wife, in a company house, in the company compound.

Her new life is one of private clubs, dressing for dinner and the illusion of freedom - she learns to drink discreetly, flirt safely and, when Mason returns home from weeks on the rig, to pretend that their marriage isn't changing.

But as Gin tires of the cocktails and cigarettes she realizes that the glamour and the wealth inside the gates are bought with the corruption beyond them. And when a young Bedouin woman is discovered dead in the bay, she begins to ask dangerous questions.

As Gin's world closes in around her, the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found. In the Kingdom of Men is sure to become a book club favourite, and you'll want to press into the hands of all your girlfriends.

It is totally transporting and compulsively readable, but also, like The Help, a novel which explores deeper issues of emancipation and morality.


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Gin McPhee is very pleased to escape her dirt poor and strict Methodist upbringing by getting pregnant at the first opportunity. Her new husband gets work and they joyfully set up in their own home, but she loses the baby. In the grief-fogged aftermath, her husband Mason takes a job in Saudi Arabia and they fly out to the company compound.In Saudi, Gin finds herself thrust into sudden and unaccustomed luxury, which she is not entirely at ease with. She doesn’t know how to deal with the house servants, and is not comfortable with other, middle-class, company wives. However, she makes a friend and starts to build a life, of sorts, for herself.Mason does well in his job and rises fast – making enemies along the way. Then, when he starts investigating corruption at the heart of the company, things begin to go badly wrong.This book has a number of strengths, of which the greatest, for me, is the evocative descriptions of time and place the author gives us. The early section covering Gin’s early upbringing is particularly good, but I also enjoyed the narrow and bitchy lives of the company wives, Gin’s confusion and resentment at the constraints on what women can and can’t do as soon as she leaves the compound, and the unfolding friendships she makes with the Arab driver and her Pakistani houseboy. On the down side, the book seems to lack focus, as if the author hadn’t really decided what to do with it (it isn’t really a thriller, but it’s more than a “slice-of-life” story), and there were sections (especially those dealing with life on the compound) which were repetitive and not very interesting. And I didn’t like the ending – the story just suddenly stopped, and the epilogue felt rather irrelevant.Overall I found this a very enjoyable read, and with more depth than the “chick-lit-y” cover would lead you to expect.