11 July 2016

Princess by Jean Sasson

     Princess by Jean Sasson is the first story in a trilogy of tales of Princess Sultana, a real royal member of the Saudi royal family. It's a story of a woman frustrated by a society that keeps the women in a constant state of subservience to men. Told from the perspective of a brave young woman who risks possible death to tell her tale in order to fight for the advancement of Saudi women....or is it?
     I have to say it is a very interesting read. I finished it pretty quickly because it was exciting, but as I read my first thoughts were, "How on earth did the Saudis not figure out who this was?" The details were vivid and while they were purportedly changed it seemed impossible to not figure out who Sultana was. I mean, this wasn't just like, average Saudi woman. This was a member of the royal family. That has to be pretty easy to narrow down.
     Also, as I read it it seemed more and more like the book an American would write for other Americans. "Hah! I knew those middle easterners were up to no good!" It started when Princess Sultana made the claim that women weren't allowed in the mosques in Saudi Arabia. Now, I knew that couldn't be right since usually there are special "woman places" in mosques so women don't like....I don't know, distract men. I looked it up and there are apparently a few places where women aren't allowed in mosques, Saudi Arabia is not one of them.
     Also, I realize there have been injustices to women in Saudi Arabia (heck, there are some in this country). I personally have some issues with veiling and the direction they take modesty (an otherwise good trait, by the way), and I am trying to be careful because I know there are women who actually consider veiling in the same way I would consider my own modesty. I think not allowing women to drive is pretty outrageous, but the instances of injustice in this book are almost too crazy. I know there are cruel people in this world, but it's hard to get me to believe every Saudi man is the worst possible kind of sadist imaginable. Everything cruel that could be done, they did in this book.
     Apparently there is some controversy over this book and over whether Princess Sultana actually exists. So, my instincts were maybe justified. I did enjoy reading the book and since I happen to have the second book I kind of want to go ahead and read it, and it is a trilogy so no harm in reading the third I suppose. I am not....sure I would recommend it necessarily. It's not like the writing was blow-me-out-of-the-water good. It did hold my attention, though I found the Princess herself to be a bit troublesome. The book is about her personal struggle for advancement of women in a culture bent on opposing her, but it just seemed like she protested everything. One of my least favorite main characters is "the hot head," and maybe this is unfair but that goes double if it's a woman. The female protagonist who shrilly declares, "My way or no way!" is just very annoying.  There are times to stand up to oppression but you should pick your battles a little more carefully in my opinion.
     If the author Princess owned up to writing a novel I might tell others I found it pretty interesting, just because it does make for an engaging read. Though in our current political climate it might do more harm than good. I want to finish the series, but you should take it with a grain of salt.