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The Stone Woman: A Novel (Islam Quintet 3) [Paperback]

Tariq Ali
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Oct 2001
The Stone Woman is the third novel of Tariq Ali's "Islam Quartet." Like its predecessors - Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree and The Book of Saladin - its power lies both in the story-telling and the challenge it poses to stereotyped images of life under Islam.

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The Stone Woman: A Novel (Islam Quintet 3) + The Book of Saladin: A Novel (Islam Quintet 2) + A Sultan in Palermo (Islam Quintet 4)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New edition edition (26 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859843646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859843642
  • Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 13.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 372,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Tales of anguish, longing, lust and lvoe all find their way to The Stone Woman ? Ali paints a vivid picture of a fading world." - New York Times Book Review "A richly woven tapestry that, even before its completion, merits comparison with Naguib Mahfouz's celebrated Cairo Trilogy. A great work in progress." - Kirkus Reviews "Ali spins a web of tales that is as inventive and fantastical as the Arabian nights." - The Times "... an Eastern Magic Mountain." - London Review of Books "This Chekhov-like scenario of intense emotion within a creaking social structure constructs a rich picture of history and the way we think about history." - Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Tariq Ali is a writer and film-maker. He has written over a dozen books on world history and politics, five novels, and scripts for both stage and screen. The first novel of the Islam Quintet, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, was awarded the Archbishop San Clemente del Instituto Rosalia deCastro Prize for Best Foreign Language Fiction published in Spain in 1994 and, like The Book of Saladin, has been translated into several languages.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, 26 June 200O: The Ottoman Empire, known as the 'sick man of Europe' in the 19th century, continues its slow, steady decline in the summer of 1899 as elderly Iskander Pasha (a descendant of gthe Sultan's favourite courtier) and his well-born family gather outside their sea-side palace outside Istanbul. Ali explores the complexities of the Ottoman mentality in his fifth outing, a colourful sensual drama of families, sexual intrigue and rebellion...... Ali's epic combines the luxuriant pacing of the old-fashioned novel of ideas with the 20th century relish for sexual detail to conjure up an almost Chekhovian mileu.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars masterful writing 16 Nov 2008
The Stone Woman is a superb book: voluptuous, exotic - with relevant political savvy thrown in. Here is an example of Tariq's wisdom: "He was excited by the events of the day. He spoke of the young officer who had made what was really difficult sound possible, namely to make progressive ideas a reality. So often in the past, lofty ideas had been transformed into their opposites, when those who had proclaimed them actually came to power. This had happened in France after the revolution, but it had happened here (Turkey) as well. Whenever the reformers had been made Viziers, their ideas disappeared and they were compelled to govern the Empire in the only way they knew, which was the old way." T. Ali reminds me of another evocative writer from whom one learns much - Amin Maalouf.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book, you won't just read it once! 21 Jun 2005
Very moving, very informative, stunning language, believeable characters, great story - we reviewed this book in our village bookclub - no one had a bad word to say about it! I found this book to be story and character driven, not politically motivated at all, and very well written.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ali loses the plot 24 Jun 2004
Prior to reading this novel, I had read Tariq Ali's 'Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree', which had set some high expectations. However I found the book to be quite disappointing. It seems to be nothing more than a collection of short stories loosely strung together, which neither move or inspire and seem almost irrelevant to each other.
The novel is also spoilt by the blatant creation of certain characters that are nothing more than a vehicle for the writer's own political opinions. There are many heavy-handed political interludes more in the nature with the author trying to lecture the reader, than part of the story's intrinsic motif.
If you enjoyed Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree then this novel will disappoint you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unpeel the onion: An Ottoman Family History 11 Jan 2001
By Robert A. Saunders - Published on
The Stone Woman is an exquisite microcosm of life in a decayed empire. Tariq Ali's most recent segment of his Islamic Quartet is the best so far. The novel reads like an epic poem, but with all the drama and intrigue you would expect from a Latin American soap opera. The rich tapestry of one wealthy Ottoman family's story unravels through the clandestine reports made to a pagan statue near the summer residence of an exiled forbearer. The interconnecting details are told through a headstrong daughter who has returned home after a long absence. Ali's gifts are especially evident as he slowly unpeels the layers of this family's compelling and often-cursed history. Meanwhile, Ali wraps in the politics surrounding the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the so-called "Sick Man of Europe," on the eve of the Great War. The sometimes tedious subplot about the proto-revolutionary movement in the Empire is the novel's only weak point. As a student of Ottoman history, I found it interesting, but it takes away from the true brilliance of the novel. For fans of Ali's other two works on the often violent but always spellbinding confrontation between Christianity and Islam, this book will be a godsend. It is quite similar to Ali's first book in the series, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, in that it focuses on the life and times of patrician family. But this work deepens the focus on family and creates a vast array of memorable and believable characters where Pomegranate had only a few broadly drawn archetypes.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SENSUOUS DELIGHT 20 Oct 2000
By Maliha Afridi - Published on
I went to the author's reading at Cody's bookshop in Berkelysome weeks ago. I had no knowledge of his work prior to this event. Heread well (was he ever an actor?) which encouraged me to buy thebook. I am a Muslim woman and I thought it was brave of a male authorto make his narrator a 24-year-old woman, but he succeeds verywell. One bit I found harrowing and that was Salman's life-story astold to The Stone Woman. Could Mariam have been so evil? I finishedthe book a week ago, but its images still haunt me. When I'verecovered from The Stone Woman I intend to read his other novels
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great literature, great history 19 Aug 2000
By Randall Stickrod - Published on
Who but Tariq Ali could have written a book like this? This is, first of all, a wonderful piece of literature, suffused with lyrical prose that befits its time and place and evokes the poetry and sensuality of the Middle East in the pre-modern world. And it is a vital piece of history, occasionally pedagogical (some might say to a fault, but I won't), an insider's view of the last days of the Ottoman empire in Turkey as the world prepares for the painful and violent birth of the twentieth century, a sensitive and cynical rendering of the corrupt,but feeble, state of affairs of the government of the Sultanate.
The narrative flows in a series of vignettes as the main characters, members of a proud aristocratic family, gather one fateful summer at the family estate outside Istanbul, and reveal their secrets to the"Stone Woman," a natural rock formation that has always been the keeper of family secrets. Ali's Turkey is full of surprises -- Sufi mystics who quote Balzac, nobles whose true lineage derives from Albanian shit-sweepers, gay uncle Memed and his intellectual Prussian lover of 50 years,desperate intrigues and dubious patrimonies. Through these the author teaches us of the follies of contemporary life in the Islamic world --the deadly hypocrisies of religious fanaticism, the ugliness and tragedy of ethnic and sectarian hatreds, the redeeming value of life-giving passion. And always, the eternal lessons of history. This is a marvelous book, as rich and complex and enchanting as an ancient Turkish carpet.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seductively Enchanting 29 Jan 2001
By M. A. ZAIDI - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
A friend recommended this book, and i am so pleased that she did. What a novel i am absolutely swayed by it. Stone Woman my first of Tariq Ali, but certainly not the last. I read with initial resistance, but was lured to it from the first page. Mystically he draws the attention with the words which encapsulates the reader as a silent observer witnessing the developments in the palace of Pasha. One is drawn away from present times and transcends to the era of Ottomon empire's decadence.
I found the characters in this narration to have immense depth, which is delieved in part by confessions. Confessions are made to a small rock resembling a pagan goddess. Secrets are divulged to the goddess which sheds a light on the mental and emotional state of the character. Another luring aspect of this novel are the discussions by the characters. Rational, religion, philosophy and the creation of the future republic to be carved from Ottomon Empire are debated.
The narration has an expanse of seduction, rebellion, confessions, betrayal, rational, arguments, religion, treachery and conspiracy. It is to these reasons i find the text rich in prose.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So very well written 19 Feb 2007
By Stephen McHenry - Published on
Tariq Ali is a master of setting the character as a recognizable human with depth, worries, complexity, hopes and resourcefulness. And always with Ali there is at least one character of resolution and will power who is ttempting to change direction of their life, this time away from the path laid out by the Ottoman Empire and its traditions, culture, and political narrow-mindedness. The characters are so well drawn and realistic one from the very beginning is involved.

This story is set at the very end of the 1800's when the Ottomans and the rest of the world is heading towards the first world war. The strength of the story this time is a woman who is reevaluating her life; the forces of the old ways are crashing on the shores of the new times: Old men hold onto old way honor and tradition, while their sons plot rebellion and revolution and the future; women and families and values are caught in the riptide. Some of this is revealed in confessions the characters make in private in the forest to a giant stone that has a face resembling a woman, The Stone Woman.

Interesting people, interesting times with real and believable characters and situations in a fascinating time of a dying empire. And all of it so very well written.
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