50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2002
I only read this book as it kept appearing on my Recommendations list. I had a vague idea on how woman were seen in Saudi Arabia but, how little I knew.
Princess Sultana tells the story of her life - her luxurious prison sentence, just because she is a woman in a land where this means second class citizen. No rights, no choice, she is constantly told what will happen to her and her sisters.
She is a Princess yet no one, not even her father, thinks she is anything special - because she is a daughter and only sons are truly wanted. Her voice is defiant and strong, even in the face of danger. She refuses to accept her lot in life - to serve and obey - all the time knowing she could easily be murdered for being a 'difficult' woman. She risks death again and again to do what she thinks is right, to gain a little freedom and choice over her life. Her spirit is amazing - she has hope in the darkest times. It's astounding that this story is real and that she risked so much over and over - knowing that she too could be murdered like her friends and the police would help cover it up.
Some of her stories are truly sickening, I cannot see how she kept going, knowing she had no help in society - no police force, little parental support, should anything happen to her. Women are taught to get on with life no matter what. Men are always right and can do anything, ANYTHING they want.
The only glimmers of humour and lightness are her accounts on the triumphs over her vile brother Ali. I was delighted when she got away with some of them, though tiny moments of satisfaction and joy can never compensate her largely grim existence.
I wouldn't say this book was enjoyable or pleasant. It's shocking, heart wrenching and disgustingly real. By the end of the book I felt depressingly resigned to the fact that I couldn't do anything to help and Sultanas' story was just one of thousands. It is, however, essential to learn about how different life is in other parts of the world. As a Western woman I feel immensely grateful and humbled by Sultanas story. I hope she is happy wherever she is.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2006
Wether is true or a fiction it is still extremely intresting from the begining to the end. It was hard to put down and i managed to read it within 3 days. Its was interesting and gripping alltogether.
This book had the true Arab feel to it. It makes you want to learn or know more about the Saudia culture and the royal family. Some issues in the book were quite difficult to take in or except e.g. the princess drinking and so close to becoming an alcoholic. This is not accepted and to think the Saudi's of all people can fall to that degree-this is what money can bring you. money does not bring happiness and this is what the princess showed. She was missing something and you can't help but like her character-because she spoke out and discussed her life with everyone, even if the Saudi royal family didn't like it.
To learn the fate of some of the grils was distressing. Also to learn that girls got married to men old enough to be thier father-this is not accepted in the western muslim world. Their muslim cultures do vary from the western muslim culture and the asian muslim culture. This shows their own status, tradition are mixed with religion and changes do occur within each country and muslim area.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2002
I really did not have a clue what i was going to read, but once I started reading this book of life behind the veil of Saudi women, I could not put it down. It is heart wrenching in parts; Has a touch of humour, despite the suffering; It is very defiant and is certainly eye opening in a way that we western women could not even imagine, the suffering and iniquities against these women of Saudi Arabia. I fully recommend the follow up book, Daughters of Arabia by Jean P Sasoon. Once you begin reading these books, you will not want to put them down or ever forget their contents.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2001
This book is not for the faint-hearted. We get to see that in a world full of material priveleges, the Saudi princess lacks but one thing - Freedom. The freedom to work, the freedom to speak, the freedom to think... This book lifts the veil on Saudi Arabia revealing to the reader that in one of the wealthiest lands on Earth it is primitively still a man's world - a world of arrogance, domination, ego and ignorance.
This is the story of Sultana - a Saudi princess - living a life of extreme monetary wealth and yet experiencing poverty within the realm of equality and basic human rights. This is a story of her fight for basic rights for the women of Saudi Arabia. It reveals a land of perversion and untold horror - where females are truly seen as expendable. This is a book you are not likely to forget - it will enrage, sadden and numb you, but the small victories won by Princess Sultana will bring out the occasional smile.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2004
This is a truly fabulous book, I was touched, shocked, saddened and enraged in turn. The bravery of 'Sultana' is inspiring. The writing is very good and I was really pleased with the amount I learnt about women in Saudi Arabia and their society in general. I thouroughly recommend this book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2012
I am a white western woman, I have been cherished and valued by both my parents, I have two brothers, we have all been treated equally, I have had the freedom of speech, career and lovelife. I chose to leave home, get a good career and buy my own home. I chose the man I wanted to marry, ok the first time it did not turn out so well. But I am now happily married again, a man I chose myself, a man I am happy being with.
This book, and the following books about the life and family of Princess Sultana show a completely different life, a life so vastly different to my own. A life where she is treated as a nothing by the men in her life, luckily, she has married someone she does get on with. But her sister was not so lucky initially, and her Husband was nasty, he was sexually brutal, although no descriptions are given.
In a later book her older sister ends up with a colostomy due to a drunken husband doing exactly as he wanted.
They touch on female circumcision, with the younger sisters did not have to endure. These books show a life where the women are treated as second class citizens, their opinions mean nothing, they can still be stoned to death, the male members of the family decide the punishment for the females, and the men generally see them as sex things, to be used as and when, and just to provide sons. Daughters not being welcome. The men can divorce the women just by saying it, no lengthy solicitor involvement, and can as easily take them back (for a few times at least)
There are some funny parts, and some parts where the men are more sympathetic to the females, but the book is the Princess talking about how things generally are in Saudi Arabia.
I have worked with Muslims, and worked with women who have worked in Saudi, so I did have an idea how strict things were there, but in general rather than specifics.
In this the Princess depairs at the way things are, and how she wants to change them,but cannot, how she does not want her own daughters bought up the way she was, and wants a different life for them.
It is a really interesting read, and in the second book, her family are aware of the book, and the fallout once she is revealed as the "author" well it being about them, then the damage limitation to stop it getting out.
This is a really good book, and I would really recommend this book. It makes you appreciate your own life and what freedom we have.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2000
I am very interested in different cultures and traditions, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East where women are treated so differently to how they are here in the west. I was shocked to hear just how differently, and to learn about how much power Saudi men have over their women and the restrictions and expectations that are laid upon them. Reading this made me very shocked and angry, but also proud of 'Sultana's' determination to be herself. It also made me think how incredibaly lucky we western women are, and it made me more appreciative towards our freedom. I think Jean P Sasson took a risk when she decided to write this, as did 'Sultana', but it is a brilliant, moving and inspiring book that deserves the greatest respect.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2014
The book follows the real life story of Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia – the name changed for maintaining the lady and her family’s privacy. Jean Sasson has narrated the story in first person in the voice of the Princess herself.
Princess Sultana talks about her life from childhood, beginning at the age of four. She speaks about the way the women of Saudi Arabia, including those in the royal households, are dominated over completely by the men. Even her father’s driver Omar appears to have had more authority in their home than her mother or Sultana and her sisters.
Sultana’s brother Ali is given so much importance that the young girl believed that he was God. It is after her mother sets her right does Sultana understand that Ali was treated the way he was because he is the SON of the house and for no other reason.
The book is all about Sultana’s frustration and rebellion to gain her father’s affection and respect in the beginning. Later on, it turns to hatred for her brother. She quotes many instances where women are treated so terribly. We living in the metropolis of Mumbai would find them all so strange and non-relatable.
Young women of barely fourteen and fifteen years being stoned to death, drowned in the house swimming pool with weights tied to them or enclosed in a dark airless room with a hole for a toilet and kept there to die way before their time are just a few of the incidents that happened at the end of the twentieth century in this land ruled by the Koran. There are also many instances where girls between the ages of 15 and 17 were married as third or fourth wives to men over fifty years of age. Being raped on their wedding nights was pretty common with the womenfolk in Saudi Arabia.
Princess Sultana is convinced that the religious men (but of course) or mutawas ruled the land and had more power than the King himself.
The horrifying details of the women’s plights and Sultana’s rebellion about the situation make for an emotional read. It’s heartrending to imagine the situation that had prevailed – and probably does till date – till the end of the last century.
Of course, living in India and hearing about twenty-first century child marriages way up in North India; grooms being kidnapped in Bihar and forced to get married to the daughter of the house and murdering couples who are in love and insist on getting married; kind of makes the situation in Saudi Arabia quite believable.
It is so pathetic that only human beings have the capacity to hurt other humans in the name of religion. I cannot believe that any God or his son would have foreseen this situation when they put the Koran or the Bible together – to be misinterpreted or twisted to their own ends.
The book is about Sultana as a kid under her father’s thumb, then later being harassed by her brother. She gets married to Kareem. She believes she has found the ideal man whom she could respect and love. It remains true up until the point when Sultana is diagnosed with breast cancer. While her life is not in danger, the doctor warns them against having more kids. They already have a son and two daughters at this point.
Sultana had always believed that she would be Kareem’s only wife and is quite proud of the fact. She also respects and loves him for the same reason. Her heart breaks when Kareem talks to her of his intention of taking another wife as having many children is very important to the men-folk in Saudi Arabia.
Sultana runs away from home along with her three children till Kareem agrees not to marry again. She does return to him but her spirit is completely broken as she understands that women will always remain subordinate in their society.
This moving tale gives one an inside perception into the minds of the Muslim society in Saudi Arabia and also probably in the rest of the world.
I have always believed that the Indian society in their treatment of women has changed a lot after the advent of the Moghuls – women were treated with way more respect in yonder days. And this book convinces me that I perceive right.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2002
I found this book very interesting to read.
It is really easy to get in tune with the characters and my heart goes out to all the ladies of Saudi Arabia and thank myself lucky enough not to be in such a situation.
Although saying this there were a few things (like descriptions of our relegion) that I think maybe should not have been mentioned in the book or if they were the topic should have been approached in a different way.
If I were a non muslim I would have thought of Islam as a barbaric religion.
Personally I also feel that the cover of the book should not have had "An appallung indictment of the treatment of woman in Saudia Arabi" all over it as this sends stero typical ideas to narrow minded people.
Also the fact that "Sultana" wishes to hide her identity leads to thoughts such as; how much of "Sultana's" life had the author changed to make her book more enjoyable to the reader?!?!?
I would still recommend it as a good read and it is definatley an eye opener but I whoever advise that whoever reads this book should do with an open mind.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2000
When i was first given this book to read i never realised that this was going to be a story which would never leave my mind...nor my heart. After reading it, I realised i never want to forget what reality is. Islam is a beautiful religion, but like everywhere else, there will be people who choose to abuse their power, trust and rights in order to get what they want. 'Princess' is a story which is so shocking that i was left stunned on so many occassions. I felt for the women and I cried for the women. I highly recommend this book to everyone...you'll know what i mean once you've read this powerful story.