The first book in the “Princess” trilogy, Princess gives the rest of the world a privy to the life of Saudi Arabian women – royals and non-royals alike. For the world, Saudi Arabian royal princesses live a privileged life with no dearth of money or luxury. Little do we know that their lives are controlled by the whims and fancies of the men who surround them. Women are treated worse than animals, denied education, married off to men fit to be their grandfathers, divorced if diagnosed with an illness or if their husbands are bored of them and even killed to protect the family honor! This book was described as a “look into an air conditioned nightmare” by the New York times review.
The book describes the various events in the life of Princess Sultana the 7th daughter of a Saudi Royal Family of Al Saud. From a young age she finds out that her father would never love her or her sisters and that their brother would have preference over everyone in all matters including food and lifestyle! They were just the “unwanted daughters” who had to abide their time until they could get married to serve their duty as a woman by being an obedient wife and giving birth to plenty of children hopefully male. Most marriages were arranged as strategic business alliances or partnerships and it was and probably still is common for a girl as young as 15 to be married to a man as old as 62! Observing how her mother and the rest of the women are treated Sultana learns to rebel and fight for what is her right in a male dominated world where the verses of the Koran are twisted to suit men and men alone.
The events in the book have been based on the stories of a actual princess, who requested the author that her story and issues that affect the women of Saudi Arabia be published. She hoped that this would be the beginning of bringing some change to the laws and ways of her land. Of course the name of the princess and others in her life has been changed to ensure the safety of the princess. The book is very gripping and most of the women around the world (if not all) will definitely be grateful to have the access to education and a certain amount of independence. I do not want to come across as someone thrashing Saudi Arabia as I am sure it has changed compared to what it was 20 years ago (which was the timeline for Sultanas stories) though women are still not allowed to drive and a women was arrested as early as March 2009 for driving!
The book was very gripping and I didn’t want to put it down until I finished it. We Indian women may celebrate the fact that we were not born in a place like Saudi Arabia but we still have a long way to go when it comes to establishing our place in the society. Certain incidents described in the book like female infanticide, domestic violence and mobbing of women by religious groups bring to memory the various incidents that keep happening through out India almost every day. The day has not yet come when a women can roam freely at night on Indian roads without the fear of being attacked, robbed or killed! It just makes me feel we are in a slightly less cruel version of a Saudi Arabian country. This book is a must read for all women.