Bitter Orange Tree: Book summary and reviews of Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi

Bitter Orange Tree

by Jokha Alharthi

Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi X
Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi
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  • Published May 2022
    224 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

An extraordinary novel from a Man Booker International Prize-winning author that follows one young Omani woman as she builds a life for herself in Britain and reflects on the relationships that have made her from a "remarkable" writer who has "constructed her own novelistic form" (James Wood, the New Yorker).

From Man Booker International Prize–winning author Jokha Alharthi, Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman's attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.

Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can't help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Amir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhour left the Arabian Peninsula.

As the historical narrative of Bint Amir's challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhour's isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips and dreams mingle with memories.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] gorgeous and insightful story of longing...The bittersweet narrative, intuitively translated by Booth, is chock-full of indelible images symbolizing freedom struck down, such as a battered kite and a bird ripped to shreds. This solidifies Alharthi's well-earned literary reputation." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In probing history, challenging social status, questioning familial bonds and debts, Alharthi's multilayered pages beautifully, achingly unveil the haunting aloneness of women's experiences." - Booklist (starred review)

"Alharthi, winner of the Man Booker International Prize for Celestial Bodies (2019), uses a dreamlike, nonlinear structure to show how the complications faced by a young Omani woman studying abroad merge with her remorse-filled memories of her very traditional surrogate grandmother...Nostalgia and longing conveyed through abstract metaphors and interior dialogue." - Kirkus Reviews

"Bitter Orange Tree blazes with the strength of generations of Omani women—from the charcoal makers of the Arab gulf to the international students of a British residence hall. This mesmerizing novel is an illuminating, important work and Jokha Alharthi points her pen at some of the most harrowing circumstances facing women and girls across the world. I am grateful to Marilyn Booth for her translation of this exquisite book." - Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Sabrina & Corina

"Jokha Alharthi is a remarkable writer for whom my admiration grows with each work. Watching the lives of Zuhour and Bint Amir unfurl within Bitter Orange Tree was a pleasure, and Alharthi's prose in the capable hands of translator Marilyn Booth is as clear and refreshing as a cool glass of water." - Sara Nović, author of America Is Immigrants

"A rich and powerful novel that showcases the interplay between memory and emigration and the precariousness of sisterhood in a world that encourages the domination of men, told in a sumptuous and incisive translation by Marilyn Booth." - Jennifer Croft, author of Homesick and co-winner with Olga Tokarczuk of the International Booker Prize for Flights

This information about Bitter Orange Tree was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jokha Alharthi Author Biography

Jokha Alharthi is the first Omani woman to have a novel translated into English, and Celestial Bodies is the first book translated from Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize. She is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children's book, and three novels in Arabic. Fluent in English, she completed a PhD in Classical Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh, and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and her short stories have been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian.

Link to Jokha Alharthi's Website

Name Pronunciation
Jokha Alharthi: JOKE-uh al-har-TEE

Other books by Jokha Alharthi at BookBrowse
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