'Cosmetic surgery is forbidden in Islam, but everyone does it,' Alsanea says.
'Girls have nose jobs and boob jobs and older women get facelifts.'In Saudi Arabia women are not permitted to drive, divorcees are social outcasts and brides are not even expected to sign their name on marriage certificates - a thumbprint will do. 'It is the country that has Mecca, the country where all Muslims go when they are on pilgrimage, so we're always going to be the number-one country in Islam.
Within days, black-market copies started appearing in Saudi.
Sally Williams meets the taboo-breaking author Rajaa Alsanea There are certain difficulties inherent in publishing a book in Saudi Arabia, as Rajaa Alsanea - dentist and writer - has discovered with the rumpus caused by her debut novel, Girls of Riyadh, an exposé of life behind the veil.
'One of my friends called from Mecca and said, "Rajaa, the imam is saying bad stuff about you, and I want to get up and kick his arse." I said, "It's OK.
'They do everything undercover, so we were not shocked about that, but we were shocked about the detail.
They have the money, they can go anywhere they want in the world, but when they want to come back home, they have to behave a certain way because society is asking them to do this. We can choose our mates and have the freedom to go out.'Alsanea was born in Kuwait, the youngest of six children, into a family of relatively modest means.
So it is with some relief that we meet at the Ritz Hotel in Chicago, where Alsanea erupts from the lift, a whirlwind of designer labels, perfect manicure and lipgloss, consulting her Gerald Genta watch (a white saucer, inset with diamonds). She [the photographer] is trying to make me kick up my legs.