It is interesting reading this book after discovering that El Sadwaal camped out in Tahir Square. Zeina is a book about the roles or lack of them that men and women are forced to play. The primary focus is on the treatment of women.
At first glance the novel appears to be a story about Bodour and her illegitimate daughter Zeina, the novel is more a story of alternating viewpoints, mostly those of various women, but every so often a view of a man creeps in. It also deals with how religion can be used to subjugate, not just in Islam but also in Christianity and Judaism.
The use of language is beautiful and pointed. From a statement like “How He [God] command a woman to desire her husband when he dominated her” to a description like “Her [Zeina’s] eyes were two blue volcanic stones, two dark flames that changed with the movement of the earth around the sun”.
If you are not bothered by the shifting viewpoints and lack of traditional structure this is a lovely book.