Jokha AlHarthi’s Celestial Bodies 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. The style is of each chapter being a historical but real-time part of a jigsaw puzzle seen from the narrators perspective, and as you complete each, the picture becomes clearer; though as with all true puzzles there eventually turn out to be a few pieces missing, perhaps for the sequel ‘Solar Bodies’ (my made up faction).
While the book is an interesting read, what makes this book unique, for an Omani author, is that it is has won of one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for authors, the “Man Booker Interntional Prize“.
To give you a better idea of the Celestial Bodies book, from an interested but detached reviewer – watch this video.
If you do buy the book and have a choice between eBook and Paperback – the Paperback has font enhancements to differentiate characters – and also has a very useful family tree.
Jokha AlHarthi, the author, is an Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University in Oman following her 2011 Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies PhD in Classical Arabic Literature from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
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, England.
The publisher has made an excerpt available to read here.
Also as the book has won the Man Booker Prize, here is the award ceremony