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Yvonne hurries over to introduce herself to the young Arab man, thinking to herself young Arab men don’t bother withdrawing before they come, relying on women to take precautions.

In her book, Hanan al-Shaykh depicts two women with different backgrounds.

Indeed, Yvonne is a European, lives in London and she is thirty-seven. Huda is a Muslim and she lives in Canada and is younger. Yet, we can notice the pressure of the society on these two characters and how they react to that. Yvonne is worried about her age and her only ambition is to get pregnant before it is too late and as the quote shows it, she is willing to do anything. The desperation of this woman who wants to have children and who is ready to do that with the first man who will have sex with her is striking. She doesn’t even think about STD or the fact that her child would not have a father. It shows how her background and the society she is living in influences her actions. As a woman she is expected to have a child at any cost and to do it before “it is too late”. The fact that a Lebanese author depicts that type of character is interesting especially when we have another character from another culture to see the differences.

The character of Huda is different and yet shares some common things with Yvonne as they are both women and as they have to deal with some pressures and expectations from their cultures, where they are and who they are. The most striking scene, in my opinion, is the one with the Arab man and the strawberry. He thinks that Huda is not pure enough and that creates sort of a reaction of contradiction for her. Her goal is to seduce him and to show him that he is wrong, even if she is not virgin anymore. And she says: “All I’m going to think about is the strawberry waiting to explode, and the satisfaction of having my revenge on him when he sees my vaginal blood and his arrogance and self-righteousness melt away.” It shows how she is fighting against a prejudice and trying to have a revenge over the male. But this way to get her revenge is to use the expectations from her culture which are for instance to be virgin and not to feel better with herself but to make this man feel like he missed something and was wrong. I also thought that this scene was important because of the title of the book and it gives another light to this one.

As a conclusion, the woman condition is depicted in this book in an interesting way by creating two characters that are sharing an experience with two different approaches. The fact that the writer is a Lebanese woman is also an important detail because it is rare to see such a freedom when it comes to writing about sexuality and women in the Middle East. By writing about that, the author is not only making a satire of the expectations towards women but also shows how it impacts them and how they find ways to deal with that.

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