Non Fiction & Auto-Biographies

The Princess Trilogy #1- A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson

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!!

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely

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  • Vinitha

    You read this book in your highschool years? Such a strong theme soaked with injustice! Recently the women in Saudi are granted with the freedom to drive. There was a documentary about the difficult life the women lead their with no freedom whatsoever. It was difficult for me to watch that one. I don’t think I would be able to read thus book with so much misogyny in it. I loved your honest review, Ramya.

  • Rashmi

    Nice review. Misogyny isn’t much my cup of tea, but a good story definitely it. I might give this one a try – but will check out on the plagiarism charge first. That was very honest of you, to mention the plagiarism part (considering this was a book you enjoyed as a child and still read) Thanks for sharing.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks Rashmi… Yeah I cant deny that i did enjoy the book. Though this plagirism bit, i aint sure myself.. But the internet is complete with this bit of info..

  • sulekha

    Controversies make or mar a book. I don’t think I can read this book after reading your review, great piece of writing. I have read a book by Kirthi Jaykumar, Doodler of Dimashq and this book touched me deeply. It is about the way in Syria, read it if you get a chance. I loved it.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Oh will surely take your suggestion. I have no read at the moment and was searching for one. This seems inteersting at the moment!

  • writershilpa

    I have read this book, Ramya, and it evoked such strong feelings of hatred and disgust at the society in that part of the world! What sort of lives those women live! Pathetic,to say the least. It’s so true, the life of a princess is not all glitter and gowns and tiaras, if she belongs to ‘that’ culture! (So scared to even utter the name!)

  • Parul Thakur

    Never heard of the book but I read and loved a book by Betty Mehmoodi. It’s her own life story and gives an honest glimpse of the life of a woman in Iran. It’s an amazing book. I think you will like it too. Maybe it’s from there that this book’s plagiarism comes from?

  • Vidya Sury

    That is an interesting review, Ramya. I think I saw this book in the bookstore I visited a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued with the title. But misogyny? Hmm. 🙂

    Love your header image– so soothing.

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