BOOKS Nine Parts Of Desire: The Hidden World Of Islamic Women. Geraldine Brooks (Penguin) This is a searing indictment of Islam's attitude towards women without ever resorting to hyperbole, outrage or condemnation. Throughout, author Geraldine Brooks simply observes and asks 'why?' Why does Saudi Arabia refuse women basic human rights, why does Islam refuse to condemn female circumcision, why is Islamic fundamentalism so deeply mysoginistic and why does the world community allow such mysoginy to go on all but unchallenged? Towards the end of this exhaustively researched and fascinating book, Brooks puts the position of the Islamic woman in stark context by reversing the gender. Would the world community stand idly by if 90 million little boys were having their penises amputated? She then substitutes race for gender and asks: 'Say a country, a close Western ally and trading partner, had a population half white, half black. The whites had complete control of the blacks. They could beat them if they disobeyed. They deprived them of the right to leave the house without permission: to walk unmolested without wearing the official segregating dress; to hold any decent job in the government, or to work at all without the permission of the whites in control of them. Would there have been an uproar in our countries by now?' It is through such pithy observations as this (the description of the blacks is an exact representation of the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia) that Brooks exposes the injustice of the Islamic system towards women. This is a cracking book, which should be read by anyone who needs to be reminded of how quickly basic human rights can be lost in the face of religious zealotry, and by certain men who have begun to think women are merely a commodity. VIDEO Cat On A Hot Tin Roof Some things only improve with age and this 1956 adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play certainly fits into that category. Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor are excellent as a couple at war with each other and their family. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof starts with a big get-together where the burning question is whether family patriarch Big Daddy (Burl Ives) is suffering from terminal cancer or simply a spastic colon. When the latter is announced it is received with muted enthusiasm. Big Daddy's plantation is worth a fortune, and Newman's sister-in-law wants to get her hands on it. But all Newman has ever wanted from his father is love, and when he finally gets the truth from the family doctor, that Big Daddy is dying, it is that love he seeks as a legacy. Both Newman and Taylor were nominated for Oscars. Excellent. Carrington Although it is about to be released on Hong Kong screens, Carrington is already available here on video. It is one of the strongest, most complete films to have been produced in a long time. Director/writer Christopher Hampton has done a superb job of documenting the life of the bohemian writer Lytton Strachey, and has drawn a brilliant performance from Jonathan Pryce (who took the best actor award at Cannes last year for this turn). Emma Thompson also stars in the title role as a painter whose life is turned upside down when she falls in love with Strachey. The pair are made for each other, but they can never consummate their love because Strachey is homosexual. But the outstanding feature of this movie is its wonderfully constructed script which refuses to make villains or heroes of its characters. Marvellous. RECORDS Mighty Aphrodite - Music From The Motion Picture (Sony Classical) Woody Allen is famous for many things, one being his passion for jazz. A fair clarinet player, the diminutive writer/director/actor has always been very involved in the scoring of his pictures. His latest movie, Mighty Aphrodite, is studded with old and well-loved jazz standards such as Li'l Darlin' by the Count Basie Orchestra, and I've Found A New Baby by Wilbur de Paris. It is pretty much easy listening, but given the 'lounge music' trend currently sweeping Britain that qualifies it as ultra-hip these days. Also included are a couple of bouzouki tracks which, although a touch incongruous, give the album a flavour of Greece that adds spice to an otherwise rather tepid collection of tunes.