Princess Sultana’s Circle – Jean Sasson

This is the last book in Sultana trilogy. Sasson, who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1978 to 1990, offers an intimate view of a culture radically unlike the West. Readers will find the tales here astonishing in many ways–from camping trips to the desert complete with Persian rugs, a cadre of servants and a fleet of 25 Mercedes-Benzes, to harems of imprisoned young sex slaves. But Princess Sultana, a member of the large royal family Al Sa’ud, finds the mistreatment of women surrounding her appalling, even though it is part of the culture in which she was born and raised. This angry and rebellious woman’s attempts to satisfy her “”lifelong desire”” to alleviate the suffering of other women are frustrated, however, by her all-powerful kinsmen. Desperately, she turns to extravagant shopping and alcohol for relief. The gang-rape of a 14-year-old servant girl by her nephews finally provides the catalyst for Sultana’s ultimate epiphany, in which she stands up to the men and garners support from her many sisters, creating a “”circle of protection”” around the girl. Surprisingly, the men relent in the face of such unusual defiance, and Princess Sultana is forever changed by the act; although she cannot create wholesale change in her country, she determines that she will never again allow an individual woman to be mistreated. Thus, her tale of decadent opulence becomes a political rallying cry that she hopes will spread the word and inspire many “”Sultana’s circles”” to alleviate the plight of women everywhere, one woman at a time.

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