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 Sasson (Princess, 1992) again teams up with a Saudi Arabian princess, alias ``Sultana,'' to bring us more tales from behind the veil. Sultana's sequel to girlhood is motherhood, and her memoir reveals that abuse against women runs rampant in the kingdom. Despite the shelter afforded by wealth and privilege, Sultana's daughters live in a world of unending male brutality. Elder daughter Maha spies on her best friend's father as he deflowers petrified 11- and 12-year-old virgins purchased from their fathers for a few nights of pleasure. After witnessing these acts, Maha experiments with lesbianism, suffers a breakdown, and is whisked to an English mental institution. Her sister seizes upon religious fanaticism, pledging her wealth to the poor, discarding her makeup, and vowing to topple the Al-Sauds' unjust rule. Sultana's days are filled with the mundane machinations of motherhood and the high- drama intrigues of her relatives. Her family's trials include trying to prevent a vaginal circumcision, covering up a nephew's rape of a comatose Western woman in a local hospital, abetting two lovers who elope to Nevada, and consoling a sister who was raped and maimed by her husband, as well as common divorce and adultery. In Saudi society, women have no right to travel alone, claim custody of their children, or choose their husbands. Sultana sees herself as a feminist crusader, but the suspense-filled first- person narrative makes her memoir read like a saga of sexual restrictions and transgressions with medieval punishments lurking at each turn. The detailed documentation of swift and cruel Saudi punishment leaves no doubt that if the king discovered Sultana's true identity, she'd pay dearly for airing the family's dirty laundry. In spite of the breathless tone, a fascinating look at the lifestyles of the rich and Saudi. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-47444-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994