Readers in the twenty-first century are more likely to be familiar with E.M.Hull's desert fantasy from the film that made Rudolf Valentino famous. However, if you have not yet read the book, and high camp sado-masochistic desert fantasy is what ignites your brazier, you're in for a treat.
E.M.Hull's book is written with the passionate intensity of personal fantasy. Apparently she was a Yorkshire farmer's wife who had never been near a desert in her life, and if you didn't know this you might have guessed it from the general vagueness of the setting. But it's the characters, urgent and melodramatic, that bring the book to life. A brutal (but v. attractive) Sheik kidnaps beautiful spirited rich Diane and keeps her captive in his tent (with all that implies) until she falls in love with him. That's more or less it. You read this book for the situation rather than the events: the Sheik's mocking laughs, his great one-liners. 'Must I be valet as well as lover?' he asks, presumably as he is undressing her prior to the first rape. Nothing is stated (this was the early twentieth century - no clitorises here, not even moist channels of love) but it's pretty clear what's going on.
Of course, being early twentieth century pulp, 'The Sheik' is also a perfect welter of Orientalist cliches and sinister racial stereotyping. Only buy this book (for pleasure, at least) if you can read these stereotypes and laugh at them. I won't give away the plot device by which Hull makes it ok for the white woman to have it off with an Arab, but be assured that by the standards of Edwardian England, it all turns out all right in the end. Enjoy.
Okay, it's hardly a book of traditional love (i.e., she meets he, instant love, little hiccup in relationship, happy ending...etc) and if you're after some erotic, steamy sex scenes described in any detail, this book will not satisfy you, but for those who like a little to be left to the imagination and some mystery, then Diana's story of eventual love and passion for and with Ahmed Ben Hassan ('The Sheik') is the book for you!
It follows the boyish Diane's journey into the desert with her caravan, up until the point when they are fired at by an approaching caravan. From then on, it's just Diane, Ahmed and a couple of his friends.
Ahmed's luxurious tent (yes, I did say LUXURIOUS tent)is the setting for nights of passionate love making...or rape, as it is to begin with, until Diane falls in love with Ahmed. All she has to do now is hope he falls in love with her, but will her wish come true? Methinks that the kidnapping of the story's heroine by an enemy of Ahmed's will help out the truth his feelings for her, and about his history too!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's excellent, but don't take my word for it!- read it yourself! Believe me when I say, it is well worth spending your money on a copy of this book!
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