Reader reviews and comments on An Unnecessary Woman, plus links to write your own review.

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

An Unnecessary Woman

by Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Woman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 320 pages
    Nov 2014, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron

Buy This Book

About this Book


Page 1 of 1
There are currently 2 reader reviews for An Unnecessary Woman
Order Reviews by:

Write your own review!

hjeffris (01/29/15)

Love this book!
Gorgeous female protagonist, tons of literary and historical references. Uplifting despite "downer" material of senseless war and misogyny of time and place.
Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder (02/25/14)

This beautiful novel has a wonderfully uplifting ending
An Unnecessary Woman is the fourth novel by Jordanian-born Lebanese author, Rabih Alameddine. Aaliya Sobhi is an elderly divorced woman living alone in an apartment in Beirut. For fifty years, she has translated novels into Arabic, usually starting a new book on the first of January, and packing the finished work away, sealed in a crate, never to be opened again. She is about to select her next book from her lifetime’s collection, when certain events threaten to change her whole way of living. Throughout her narration of current events, Aaliya regularly digresses to describe her past, her childhood, her marriage, her family, her neighbours (“The three witches have been having syrupy coffee together every morning for almost thirty years.”) and her one good friend, Hannah, (“We were two solitudes benefiting from a grace that was continuously reinvigorated in each other’s presence, two solitudes who nourished each other”) against the background of war-torn Beirut, and all her observations are illustrated with quotes from her favourite books. Aaliya’s voice, often self-deprecating, occasionally scathingly critical and full of underlying humour, is strong and clear. This novel is filled with gorgeous prose, much of it marvellously descriptive: “Disappointment hid in the tiny furrows of his forehead, fury in the corners of his mouth.” and “In my morning veins, blood has slowed to the speed of molasses.” Sentiments like “No nostalgia is felt as keenly as nostalgia for things that never existed.” are skilfully illuminated. Alameddine touches on translation and translators (of course), on seeking causality, on the language and style of the Quran and on what influences our memories. This novel is a feast for lovers of literature, even more so for readers who have read the many works mentioned. Alameddine’s love of Beirut and her people is apparent: “Beirut and its denizens are famously and infamously unpredictable. Every day is an adventure. This unsteadiness makes us feel a shudder of excitement, of danger, as well as a deadweight of frustration. The spine tingles momentarily and the heart sinks.” and “A slight breath of air makes the stagnant motes waver; a handful of sunlight kindles them golden and luminous. Apollo, ever the alchemist, still sails his chariot in the skies of Beirut, wielding a philosopher’s stone. Into gold I transmute the air.” Also: “No trace of the psychological scars those battles caused can be found on any Beiruti, however. We suppress trauma so very well. We postpone the unbreathable darkness that weighs us down.” This beautiful novel has a wonderfully uplifting ending.
  • Page
  • 1

Beyond the Book:
  Lebanon's Civil War

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hag-Seed
    by Margaret Atwood
    There's a scene in The Tempest that many critics have concluded is indicative of Shakespeare&#...
  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.