Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Princess by Jean Sasson

I should possibly say 'ghost written by' Jean Sasson.
I approached this with a mix of feelings because I've recently read Love in a Torn Land also ghost written by Jean Sasson and thought that it was appallingly written. That's possibly unfair, it was an unsuitable writing style for the topic, however, I attempted to put that aside because I'd wanted to read this for quite some time (years) so when I saw it at the library I practically snatched it off the shelf (earning myself some very strange looks, I can tell you).

Princess tells the story or a Saudi Arabian Princess who tells the story of her life and the life of women in Saudi Arabia during her life. It's very well written and I've absolutely flown through this, occasionally reading bits out to Ben, generally when I couldn't believe them and needed him to hear it as well incase I was misunderstanding it. It's a fascinating read and to a Westerners eye, almost impossible to comprehend. It tells tales of women being punished by their father's by being drowned or locked in a darkened room for the rest of their lives, for things that we wouldn't even consider to be a crime, and not only are their father's not punished for this behaviour, they're actually applauded.

But to begin at the beginning, the story is told by 'Sultana', she doesn't reveal her real name, and changes the names of those around her to protect her. It starts with her earliest memories and follows her through to, I would guess, middle age. Sultana was a spoilt brat, and she admits that she was, she writes that she remembers things now and cringes to think that she behaved like that. But, for all that she is a brat, she's quite a likeable brat, she's got sensibilities that a Western woman can understand, and we side with her because we want her to be right and we want her to succeed. Sultana wants equality for the women in Saudi Arabia, and as a reader, so do we.

As is often the case with non-fiction writing, it's quite difficult to review, because this is someone's life, it really did happen to them so you can't really comment on the 'plot' as such. Jean Sasson's voice seems less prevelant in this than it had in the previous book that I had read by her, and that's a good thing. Love in a Torn Land read like a badly written Mills and Boons at time, and while I've got nothing against that, that's not the style you'd really choose to use for a war torn land.

Overal, I really do recommend this book. It states in the reviews on the front pages that everyone should read this book, and I agree with that. I think it's important for us to remember just how lucky we are and how when we complain what an awful day we've had, it's actually not been that bad. As a Princess Sultana also hasn't had the worst life possible, not compared to the poor of Saudi Arabia, but at the same time her life has, in many ways, been much harder than mine, because I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to live with the restrictions that she has had to endure, simply because she is a woman.

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