This book was...ok. Definitely a beach read. The back cover led me to believe that it would be incredibly sexy and a delicious read. While it was sexy in some parts, it also lacked for believeable characters, had a tiresomely predictable plotline, and lacked for any real excitement. It was an easy and fast read however, good book for poolside or if you're sitting bored in an airport, pretty mindless.
Harems and harem stories have been through the ages the stuff of fantasies for women and yearnings for men. From within a harem Saalih unblushingly builds on the fantasy, revealing and sharing her most intimate encounters and sensuous thoughts.
Her story arises out of historical fact skillfully overlaid with fiction, so skillfully that separating one from the other is impossible, not that it matters, as it adds to the fascination. How did she acquire this intimate and revealing knowledge you have to wonder? Did she live in a harem at some time, and did these events really occur. Were harem slave girls required to do the things described, did he ever really love her, and was there really a Sheik Ali bin Shareef al-Saalih who owned eleven slave girls.
The story is the memoir of Mariyah El-Abiad, born in Tunisia of French and Arab parents, educated and beautiful. It starts when she is fourteen years old and ends when she is forty. Married at the age of sixteen through an arranged marriage she moves with her husband to Arabia to live with his mother and sisters. Unfortunately, she has a serious shortcoming for a Muslim wife-she is unable to conceive a child. Ostracized and ridiculed as a barren foreigner by her in-laws she seeks and finds relief outside of her new family-in the harem of sheik Ali. By deceit and cunning she enters his harem, supposedly for three months as a French language tutor, but in circumstances not of her making she finds herself trapped there and spends the next 20 years of her life in his service, firstly as the lowly love slave Sapphira, and later as an esteemed member of his household. Along the way she finds deep love and fulfillment, but the secrets of her past threaten to bring a swift end to her happiness when they are uncovered and she faces the cruel punishments prescribed for female adulteries under Islamic law.
HAREM GIRL is, at its heart, an engaging and erotic love story.
Sapphira, beautiful and assured, tells in unblushing and sensuous detail of her journey through life, briefly as an innocent young girl in Tunisia, then as one of eleven slave girls in an Arabian sheikh's harem, where her life changes utterly. Shamelessly, she reveals the sheikh's secrets of exotic lovemaking, and writes down all in her journal, her every thought, fear, and pleasure, with pressing frankness.
There is much to learn before she is called to her Master. Eunuchs train and instruct her in every facet of the art of pleasing a man.
On one hand, I looked forward to knowing these things, yet on the other, I was aghast at the way I had to show myself and the distasteful things I might have to do. It thoroughly unnerved me to realize that I must know a man in these ways, a man I scarcely knew!
Her description of life in the harem is compelling and moving, recalling a level of lustful debauchery, submission, and decadence unimaginable today, but completely believable in the era in which it is set and we are like the fly on the wall to watch intriguing, romantic, and sometimes wretched events unfold.