- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Viking (3 May 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670918008
- ISBN-13: 978-0670918003
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.7 x 21.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,106,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Sultan's Wife Paperback – 3 May 2012
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Jane Johnson writes the sort of books you want to tell everyone about - they hook you from the first page and sweep you along with passion, history and romance. I'm addicted (Katie Fforde )
An utterly compelling story (Stuart Macbride, Author Of Cold Granite )
An irresistible page turner - I loved it (Barbara Erskine )
Imagine the darkest Arabian Tale combined with Tremain's glorious Restoration. A truly alluring read (Essie Fox, Author Of The Somnambulist )
Far more than a rip-roaring read: it's a true work of art. Deftly recreating the court intrigue of the tyrannical Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail - with all its trappings of superstition, black magic and torture - it sucks you down through interleaving layers steeped in blood, sweat and raw adrenalin, to a mesmerising bedrock of real history... The Sultan's Wife gets inside you, conjuring its magic long after you read the last line (Tahir Shah, Author Of The Caliph's House )
Full of intrigue, deceit, skulduggery and murder. It has romance in it, but also heartbreak and personal tragedy. It's deeply evocative of North Africa - the sights, the smells, the culture, but there are also great depictions of London at the time, and the court of Charles II. I really enjoyed it (Ben Kane, Bestselling Author Of Spartacus: The Gladiator )
From the Back Cover
'Imagine the darkest Arabian Tale combined with Tremain's glorious Restoration. A truly alluring read' Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist
1677, Morocco. In the Palace of Meknes, captive chieftain's son, Nus Nus is framed for murder. Attempting to uncover the truth, he is caught between three powerful courtly figures: the tyrannical Sultan Moulay Ismail,; his murderous wife Zidana; and the conniving Grand Vizier.
Meanwhile, a young English prisoner named Alys Swann is brought to court . She faces a choice: join the Sultan's harem, or die. But as they both struggle to survive, Alys and Nus Nus make an unlikely alliance - one which will grow closer as they seek to escape a near-certain death . . .
From northern Africa to the streets of Restoration London, The Sultan's Wife brings to life some of the most remarkable characters of history in a captivating tale of intrigue, loyalty and desire.
'Full of intrigue, deceit, skullduggery, murder, romance . . . but also heartbreak and tragedy' Ben Kane, author of Spartacus: The Gladiator
'Terrific' Daisy Goodwin, author of My Last Duchess--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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I haven't read any of Jane Johnson's previous novels and chose to read this one purely because the setting sounded so interesting. I've never read a novel set in 17th century Morocco and I fell in love with the setting from the very first chapter. Everything was described so vividly, I wasn't surprised to find that the author lives in Morocco herself and has already written two other books set in the same country. I learned so many fascinating little facts about Moroccan history and culture and about the building of the historic city of Meknes (which was intended to rival Versailles). There are also a few chapters where the action moves to England and the court of Charles II in Restoration-period London. It was interesting to be shown the English court through the eyes of Nus-Nus and to see the ways in which it was both different and similar to the Moroccan court. But although there are lots of descriptions of food, clothing, furnishings etc, the pace of the story never slows down and there's always something happening.
Nus-Nus and Alys are fictional characters but Moulay Ismail, the Sultan, was a real person and is considered to be one of the cruelest rulers in history (one of his nicknames is 'the bloodthirsty'). This is something that Jane Johnson portrays very convincingly - based on some of the things he does in this novel, living in his household must have been a terrifying experience! Nus-Nus and the other slaves and courtiers are constantly in fear of their lives, knowing that they are at the mercy of his whim, and they have learned to be extra careful when they see him dressed in yellow as this indicates he's in a particularly murderous mood. Ismail's wife, Zidana, is also portrayed as a villain; a jealous, scheming person who uses poisons and witchcraft to attack her enemies.
Of the two narrators, I didn't find Alys Swann a very memorable character but I did really like Nus-Nus. In fact, he was the main reason why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Nus-Nus was captured from his Senufo tribe as a young man and before coming to the Sultan's palace had spent some time assisting a British doctor who taught him to read and write and to speak English. These skills make him invaluable to both Ismail and Zidana and are the reason why he's in a position where he's able to befriend and help Alys. As a black slave and a eunuch, Nus-Nus is often treated unkindly by other members of the court, but still has a lot of dignity and courage. I thought he was a wonderful character.
The story does touch on some controversial subjects including slavery, racism and prejudice, torture and cruelty (some of the things described in the novel are very brutal and characters lose their lives in some gruesome ways) but I thought everything was handled sensitively. The only criticism I really have is that Alys didn't have a very distinctive voice; sometimes she didn't sound any different from Nus-Nus and I didn't immediately realise the narrator had changed. Apart from that, The Sultan's Wife was exciting, informative and swept me away to another time and place, which is what I'm always looking for in historical fiction. I loved it!
The story revolves around two main characters - Nus-Nus, a black eunuch and Alys Swann and English woman captured whilst on her way to an arranged marriage.
Nus-Nus is a thoroughly likeable character and the author has been clever in her portrayal of Alys as too often female characters are portrayed as sickly sweet and unbelievable - not this time. The story is set in the court of the Sultan of Morocco and the author whisks you away to the country there and has you breathing in the heady scents of Moroccan life.
Set in the 1600's this book beautifully describes North Africa, its people and the grisly horror that was life at that time. I particularly enjoyed the part of the book where the characters spend time in London.
All in all this is much to commend it - perfect holiday reading.
Nus-Nus has spent some years travelling with a european doctor before finding himself at the Palace of the Sultan and as a result can speak and write in english and Moroccan arabic. This gives him certain advantages as the Sultan cannot read or write so he becomes his scibe and interpriter. He also does errands for Zidana the Sultans chief wife who is well known for her plotting, use of poisons and black magic. This indirectly gets Nus Nus into all kind of trouble ending up with him being accused of murder. When Alys arrives at the Palace alone and not knowing what will happen to her he befriends her and teaches her how to survive.
What follows is an adventure of palace intrigue as he tries to keep Alys alive and sane and free from the clutches of the Sultans chief wife who schemes and plots to maintain her position.
Enter the problem of Tangier, the main northerly port which is the territory of the English King (as part of his wife's dowry)and the desire of the Sultan to have control of all Moroccan land. Nus-Nus is ideally placed to act for the Sultan in dealings with the English Ambassador. Eventually to resolve differences a party is sent to England to meet the King and Nus-Nus is chosen to go. Now he plots to help Alys escape the palace and the attentions of Zidana the chief wife who is determined kill her. The story twists and turns and as usual I have no intention of spoiling the enjoyment of any prospective reader by telling it all now.
Having lived and worked in Morocco I found it an enjoyable read and full of local colour. It is well written and researched and whilst I do not condone the practices of slavery and barbarism, they happened and one cannot ignore what does not fit in with modern beliefs. The story deals with the subject with sensativity and whilst this is set over 300 years ago it is no worse than the butchery and cruelty of moden war and pleanty is written about that.
I am happy to recommend this book. I am sure you will find it an easy and satisfying read.
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