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Imagine the period glamour, sexual inequality and daytime drinking of Mad Men set in a country where women aren't allowed to look at men and alcohol is illegal. Raised by her grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, in a two-room shack, Gin McPhee never imagined she'd have a husband she loved and a houseboy making her breakfast. When Mason takes a job at the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia, Gin becomes a company wife, in a company house, in the company compound. Her new life is one of private clubs, dressing for dinner and the illusion of freedom - she learns to drink discreetly, flirt safely and, when Mason returns home from weeks on the rig, to pretend that their marriage isn't changing. But as Gin tires of the cocktails and cigarettes she realizes that the glamour and the wealth inside the gates are bought with the corruption beyond them. And when a young Bedouin woman is discovered dead in the bay, she begins to ask dangerous questions. As Gin's world closes in around her, the one person she trusts is where to be found. In the Kingdom of Men is sure to become a book club favourite, and you'll want to press into the hands of all your girlfriends. It is totally transporting and compulsively readable, but also, like The Help, a vel which explores deeper issues of emancipation and morality.
Kim Barnes is the author of A Country Called Home, winner of a PEN USA Award and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and two critically acclaimed memoirs. She lives with her husband, the poet Robert Wrigley, on Moscow Mountain.