Bloomsbury to Publish The Occasional Virgin by Hanan al-Shaykh
Challenging stereotypes of Arab women, The Occasional Virgin features two vividly realised, feisty female characters and fearlessly addresses questions of sexuality, Islam and identity – from the hijab to marriage and female chastity.
With one of the most important voices from the Arab world, Hanan Al-Shaykh has done much to illuminate the lives of women in the Middle East.
The Occasional Virgin will appeal to fans of All Grown Up by Jami Attenburg, The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Al-Sanea, The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany and ‘The Cairo’ trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz.
About the book: From a major novelist of the Arab world comes a bold, witty and highly contemporary novel about two women looking for love, set in Italy, Lebanon and London.
Huda and Yvonne are on holiday in the Italian Riviera, enjoying the sun and the sparkling Mediterranean, reminiscent of their childhoods in Lebanon. Yvonne doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong, either there or back in London where she runs an ad agency – she seems to spend her time waiting for the right man to come along and not leave again just as quickly. Her friend Huda has no problems in this department, only she isn’t really interested in her effect on men – till Hisham comes along. But it isn’t love spurring Huda on, it’s her desire to teach him a lesson. Because while you can’t escape your past, you can perhaps avenge it.
Frank, funny and fearless, The Occasional Virgin is the colourful, wickedly entertaining story of two unforgettable women and the lengths we’ll go to for love.
About the author: Hanan Al-Shaykh is one of the Arab world’s most acclaimed writers. She was born in Lebanon and brought up in Beirut, before going to Cairo to receive her education. She was a successful journalist in Beirut, then later lived in the Arabian Gulf, before moving to London. She is the author of the short story collection I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops and her novels include The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand and Myrrh, Beirut Blues, Only in London, and The Locust and the Bird, a memoir of her mother’s life. Most recently she published One Thousand and One Nights, her acclaimed reimagining of Arabic folktales. She has also written two plays, Dark Afternoon and Paper Husband. Her work has been translated into 28 languages. Hanan Al-Shaykh lives in London.
Catherine Cobham is a lecturer in Arabic and head of the department of Arabic and Persian at the University of St Andrews. She has translated a number of contemporary authors from Arabic, including Naguib Mahfouz, Mahmoud Darwish, Hanan al-Shaykh, Fuad al-Takarli and Ghayath Almadhoun.