Language: English
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 329
ISBN: 0553816950
Price: INR 325

PrincessPrincess‘ by Jean Sasson is the story of a girl is born into a royal family with unimaginable amounts of wealth, gold, clothes, diamonds, maids and other such luxuries. It seems like the perfect life, with the perfect woman. But this girl lives in Saudi Arabia, tarnishing every positive hope you had for the girl. This book  details the dysfunction, hypocrisy and imposed inertia of the royal family.

Princess traces the life of Sultana (name changed to protect her real identity), a princess in the Saudi royal family. Imprisoned by all the men in her family, her father, her brothers, her husband and her country, in this book Sultana talks about her life as a beautified prisoner, recounting various instances in her life when she has been neglected by or for the males. The first half of the book details her rebellion to this patriarchal system where men are superior to women. Interspersed are stomach-curdling details of lives of various other women who have suffered a fate worse than Sultana. The second part of the book talks about her life after marriage, where her husband, who she thought was loyal and different, eventually takes up another wife. It also describes the various observations about how unending wealth are wasted in the hands of uninspired princes.

She talks about how the men hold the right over the wealth of the family and have absolute power in every decision. Spurred by religious zealot, they have the power to dictate every woman in their life and use her as they please and where the women are denied basic education and are forced to cover their faces with the abaaya. They have no say in the direction of their own lives, let alone in household matters. The women are abused and scarred in barbaric and disgusting ways beyond help and cure.

This book will achieve its purpose of scarring and shocking you beyond belief. It will leave you wondering how any human can treat another human like that. It will be gut-wrenching and heart breaking. Maybe it will lead you to question the religion that propels it all and maybe turn against it. But you must remember that this book was written at a time much before today. It was at a time when Saudi Arabia was just opening itself up to embrace the world and modernity. You must treat this tale with caution.

What brings this book down is the poor narrative. This, coupled with the fact that this logically cannot be the true Sultana’s story may act as killjoy. With all the intimate details revealed in the book, it is practically impossible to hide your identity. To me, this was a book that was a documentary on the situations of life of the royal family in Saudi Arabia. It makes for a good one time read.

Overall Rating: 7/10

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