Florence of Arabia

A Novel
Narrated by: Carrington Macduffie
Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
3.9 out of 5 stars (260 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world - Arab-American relations - in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t delight.

Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world. 

The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she’s enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced “Mutter”), the “Switzerland of the Persian Gulf.” Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows. 

The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self-defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as “Friends from Hell". 

The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station’s entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that’s only the beginning. 

A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley’s funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan. 

Don't miss Christopher Buckley, Steve Martin, and other humorists discussing their craft at the New Yorker Festival.
©2004 Christopher Buckley (P)2004 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"Delightfully clever." (The New York Times)

What listeners say about Florence of Arabia

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Buckley is at the top of his game

This is Christopher Buckley at his best. This witty, funny and all-too-nearly-true political satire reveals the lies and crimes that are the earmarks of American Middle-East policy. At the same time, we get characters who are funny and sympathetic, realistic and archtypical at the same time.
The narration is terrific, with different voices, accents and cadences for each character. There is never any doubt who is speaking, and the pace and delivery is first-rate. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Christopher Buckley or good political satire.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Ending peters out

I really agree with Sandee's review. The book started out great. I was really excited about the writing, the subject and the satire. The situation kept building and I could hardly stop listening. Then, suddenly it was as if the air went out of the balloon. It was as if Buckley had got to a certain point and didn't know how to finish. What a disappointment! As Sandee wrote, it just petered out. Even at that I'll give it a 4 for originality, taking on a difficult subject, and being entertaining for 3/4s of its length.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Buckley has no endgame

This is the third Buckley novel I have listened to. Each one starts off with a great premise and loads of roman a clef characters, countries, etc.

But this one, like the other two, peters out at the end.

The author knows how to set up the situation, but once having written himself into a corner, doesn't know how to get out.

It's as if he suddenly realized that the manuscript is due and so he ends if without any of the cleverness and care taken in the beginning of the book.

But as pure ear-candy, it's not that bad. And the narrator of this book is quite good.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating Novel

Buckley tells a story that has humor but also deals with serious topics in the Middle East. Florence is an interesting and inspiring character with great courage and integrity. Also, there are many different twists and turns in the plot which make the book riveting throughout.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

A modest effort...

Because "Thank You for Smoking" is one of my favorite books, and a true masterpiece of political and social satire, I had high-hopes when I heard that Buckley was going to tackle the supremely sensitive world of Middle Eastern affairs. As a character study, and even as an adventure story, this rates about a B+, but as a comedy it is at best a C-. Occasionally boring, the ultra-clever wordplays (the country names of "Wasabia" and "Mutter" are hilarious) are the best parts of the book. There is a lot of cleverness, but it doesn't add up to consistent entertainment. The reader does a great job, though, handling multiple accents and genders with ease and indentifibility (I just made that word up).

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Amusing listen

I really like Christopher Buckley, and while I enjoyed this, I agree with the other reviewers that it is not his strongest work. Like his other works, this one end with an epilogue, while the "ending," per se, actually leaves his characters in the middle of another ordeal. Unlike his other works, I felt that some of the characters and their relationships to each other are a little flimsy. Having said all of that, it is a diverting listen, still very smart and still very funny.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

No going back

This book comes in two parts, and I listened to the first half. When I dislike a book, I normally try and listen to the first half so that if I ever think I might like to hear how it ended, I can start the second half clean.

Some weeks have passed, and I think part two will remain unheard. The premise of the story is interesting but there is a delicate balance to achieve and I don't think the author has pulled it off. The result is a book that is uncomfortable.

The emphasis on Middle Eastern politics is more racist than amusing. Satirising stoning to death and beheading is a difficult thing to do and not something I would attempt lightly. Before the end of the first half the heroine has lost half her support group and we know that she cannot end the problems of the Middle East. Just listen to the news.

The story cannot go anywhere in view of this. It's really just a question of will she escape. Given the fact he's writing the book in the first place and it is meant to be a comedy, I guess she does. I'm not really interested in how.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

love the buckley

he can tell an intelligent story with humor and irony. very good tale.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

yawn.

I don't know about the story and plot, but the narration is dreadful. I listen to books when I drive distances to keep myself engaged and awake. This narrator was annoying and nearly put me to sleep. I had to switch to podcasts. Maybe tolerable while cooking? Sorry I went to bother of straightening out Audible account (typically messed up) in order to have this in time for the drive.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Outlandish

The story was choppy and, in places, depressing. Couldn't decide whether it was fantasy or fiction. Probably fantasy.