Kamila is nine years old when she is taken from the poverty of her childhood village in southern Lebanon to Beirut. She has never learned to read or write though she longs to go to school. Stories, poetry and film are her passion - and a beautiful boy called Muhammad. They fall in love before Kamila is forced into an arranged marriage, despite her tears and screams. She is only fourteen years old. On her wedding night, her first daughter is conceived; four years later, Hanan is born. Kamila and Muhammad continue to see each other in secret, risking their lives. It is eight years before Kamila can bring herself to divorce her husband, as to do so means leaving her daughters behind. Beautifully evoking the dusty streets of Beirut and life in Lebanon, this is a heartbreaking memoir of an extraordinary woman.
Hanan al-Shaykh is one of the contemporary 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 Cairo and in Beirut, then later lived in the Arabian Gulf, before moving to London. She is the author of the collection I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops and her novels include The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand and Myrrh, Beirut Blues and, most recently, Only in London, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She lives in London.