Celestial Bodies by Jokha Al Harthi is a book about three generations of an Omani family. An almost dreamlike narration of their lives in the town of Al Awafi describes three women, sisters, and their path towards marriage. Asma marries out of duty, Khawla rejects proposals, waiting for her love and Mayya becomes married following her heart being broken.
The scene is set as Mayya works at her Singer sewing machine; is this the creation of our story? Asma is intrigued and shocked by lipstick, owned secretly by Khawla. Abdallah describes his visit to Frankfurt. And so stories are interwoven, describing a society being confronted by the new world rushing in. While the book is a good read, what makes this book unique, for an Omani author, is that it is now on the ‘long list’ of one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for authors, the “Man Booker International Prize“.
Jokha Al Harthi, the author, is an Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University following her PhD in Classical Arabic Literature at the University of Edinburgh. The book is published under ‘Literary Fiction’ and though Jokha is also fluent in English, its translated by Professor Marilyn Booth of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University.