Wonderfully written novel about the true story of a young french girl who is kidnapped by pirates and forced to join a sultan's harem.
Very well written novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It was evident there was a lot of research involved in this book. I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction.
From Publishers Weekly
A real-life 18th-century kidnapping is reimagined by biographer Wallach (Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell) in this richly detailed first novel. Thirteen-year-old Aime du Buc de Rivery is abducted by pirates on her way home to Martinique from boarding school in France and taken to the harem of the Ottoman ruler. Given the name Nakshidil and forced to abandon her Catholicism for Islam, she is befriended by Tulip, a black eunuch and the book's narrator, who helps her to realize she can improve her status by catching the eye of the sultan. Wallach enhances the already seductive story with convincing details and observations, skillfully resisting the temptation to either burden the reader with excessive historical information or descend into the baroque. After a series of machinations, Nakshidil is comfortably installed as the concubine of the sultan's successor, Selim, and placed in charge of raising Selim's orphaned young cousin Mahmud. After her native France, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, invades Ottoman lands, Nakshidil is shunned, and she and Tulip prepare to spend their final years in misery. But then Mahmud, now Nakshidil's adopted son, comes to power, and his first decree as sultan is that his mother will be "Valide Sultan," the most powerful woman in the empire. It is to Wallach's credit that at no point does her story seem preposterous. The intrigue and drama of the palace are balanced by capable, authoritative prose and admirable restraint, resulting in a novel at once serious and enchanting.
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