Celestial Bodies

by Jokha Alharthi

Hay Festival October Book of the Month

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019 and the 2010 Best Omani Novel Award, Celestial Bodies tells Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.

The novel is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present.

"Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world," said Man Booker International Prize 2019 judge Bettany Hughes.

"We felt we were getting access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English. It avoids every stereotype you might expect in its analysis of gender and race and social distinction and slavery. There are surprises throughout. We fell in love with it."

Price: £8.99