Last weekend I decided to read the first book in the Princess Trilogy- for the second time. I had come across this book during my high school years, and it had had a great impact on me. I decided to re-read it, to see if there would be a similar effect!! Must say it did!
The Princess is the story of a Saudi princess- Sultana. Claimed to be a true story, it recounts Sultana’s life, whom the author had met when she was living in Saudi Arabia. Sultana is the name adapted in the book to ensure her identity remains hidden. She is a part of the Al-Saud family, which has a major control of wealth in the Arabian Peninsula. Born with uncountable wealth, with mansions across continents, private jets, glittering jewels and designer dresses, life may well seem to be a glorious one. But in reality, it is one of no freedom and one controlled by every male member in the family. Sultana was bound by strict rules living in a tough society, where women were mere vessels to satisfy a man’s sexual pleasures and breed sons for them. In a society where family honor was of utmost importance, they could be stoned to death for bringing dishonor to the family.
Growing up in a family where her father housed four wives, with a palace for each of them, her childhood was tumultuous. She was a witness to many injustices-from a forced circumcision on her sister, to another sister being married off to a 62 year old man who was a sexual sadist. Her anger, uncontrollable, when despite having 4 wives, her father takes in another, one of the same age as Sultana.
There was preferential treatment to her older brother Ali, who would get all that he wanted. There weren’t any rules for him. He may well rape an eight year girl, while on a family holiday in Egypt, with his friends. Yet, the act is brushed away as some harmless boyish fun. There are more instances that she is a witness to. When a teenage girl is raped one night, despite the boys being under the influence of alcohol, it is the boys who are believed. The girl, pregnant as a result of the rape, is confined in a hospital until the birth, and is then stoned to death, for being the one to have initiated the rape. Such is the unfair and brutal treatment meted out to women.
The book progresses from Sultana’s childhood to her marriage. Happy in the initial phases, her married life goes through a storm, when her husband decides to take a second wife. With years of being witness to misogyny, Sultana fights it out and rebels against the society that she is part of. The book has a good narrative pace, and keeps you hooked. Written in simple English, it manages to evoke strong emotions, making you angry and furious at the injustice existing in various parts of the world.
With regards to the point of view in the book, I found it more one-dimensional. I would say, there was a sort of imbalance in the storyline. Not much has been discussed on Sultana and her efforts for rights of women, just that she herself seems to be a rebel fighting it out. Also, after doing some research I discovered that apparently the author has been accused of plagiarism in this book, for using descriptions from another novel. Not sure how true this accusation is. But this surely gives me some reservations about the authenticity of the book.
Nevertheless, if reading about misogyny interests you, this book is surely worth a read!!