x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Book Review: Dubai novel is just glitter

In Nazli Ghassemi's novel Desert Mojito, an Iranian-American female poet explores life in dazzling Dubai

Desert Mojito
Nazli Ghassemi

If only a woman would write a novel about her experiences living in Dubai without the focus being on lipstick, stilettos or sparkling beverages. Nazli Ghassemi's fluffy first venture, Desert Mojito, is not such a book.

The reader follows Maya, an Iranian-American poet - who appears to support herself on little more than air, friends and near-constant observations on local life - through a series of contrived scenes. These include a mishap at Ski Dubai, hobnobbing at the Dubai World Cup, a variety of Les Mills classes and a quick weekend on Kish Island. But it feels as though there is very little in the way of a plot to hold the book together, save for a slow-burning romance.

Maya knows the city isn't always fair - labourers get several sympathetic nods, for example - but it feels very much as if she is telling rather than showing in her story arc.

The dialogue and phrasing are hard going too. For instance, in explaining how not all passports are created equal: "In a perfect world, one passport is as good as another. A person could travel the world and the seven seas 'cause sweet dreams are made of these."

* Ann Marie McQueen