The Polygamist follows the fortunes of Omar Al Ghamdi, Saudi-born but educated in the West; a man who is the product of two irreconcilable cultures.
After two decades he has come to experience philandering as increasingly superficial; but vehemently opposed to monogamous fidelity, turns to polygamy as the solution to his high turnover existence. His hope is that taking several wives will provide him with a more honest and satisfying alternative, allowing him to engage in deeper relationships whilst still giving a long enough leash to his sexuality.
Having pursued his goal without compromise by entering into serial arranged marriages, he lives with his household on a remote house on Colva Beach in Goa. Does the reality live up to the dream? And, what is it like for the women? How can one man possibly satisfy multiple female partners?
The key to enjoying this book is going into it with the right mindset. This is no feminist text - it is about a man unabashedly pandering to his sexual fantasies and the consequences that inevitably arise. It is about male desire and sexuality during the seventies in the middle east. When you approach it with this context, it's easier to have an open mind and enjoy the journey this story takes you on.
This book really challenged my way of thinking and showed me a perspective that isn't visited much in literature. Omar's story is probably far from the reality of a middle eastern polygamous marriage, but I appreciated it nonetheless.
When thinking about the main character of this novel, I think it's fair to say that many people would consider him selfish and without morals - and he can be - but, I was often pleasantly surprised with how caring and genuine Omar was with his wives and friends. While he undergoes a significant amount of growth throughout the novel, Irvine writes it in a way that is believable. As with any character, it was sometimes frustrating, but overall, I enjoyed spending time with Omar as he navigated life, sexuality, and religion.
It may go without saying, but this book has a good deal (ok, a lot) of sexual content, so if that makes you uncomfortable, this won't be the book for you. The sheer volume can seem gratuitous at times, but I think the scenes are a crucial part of both Omar's growth and his relationship with his wives.
*Thank you to Troubador Publishing and netGalley for sending me an ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review.*