Title: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia
Author: Jean Sasson
Cover Excerpt: “Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband, her sons, and her country.Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the king. For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She must hide her identity for fear that the religous leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her honesty.” (from Amazon.com)
I have very conflicting thoughts about this book but would like to point out before anything that this is the first book (in several years) that I have read front to back. Lately, I’ve found it really difficult to finish a book merely because the book just isn’t interesting enough to finish or the ending is too predictable that I don’t feel like putting forth the effort. However, this book had me engaged throughout that for the first time every I was actually surprised when it ended. Apparently the last 20 pages are an index and excerpt of the Koran.
Now for the conflicted part. The book was that Princess Sultana is actually a pseudonym of an actual Saudi Arabian princess. So, truly the reader on has on good faith the author, Sasson, didn’t combine stories from multiple women she encountered or merely made the stories up herself. I find that the narrative of the story was more memoir than a typical biography and the details were so precise that I would never recommend it as a biography for the sake of fact. However, as far as the book being a memoir, I would say it is outstanding. The book has a wonderful flow and really knows how to capture the readers attention through different stories. I also appreciate that the princess’s story doesn’t just focus on her own story but of her sisters and women she met throughout her life.
It also bothers me that Princess Sultana talks about how restricted her life is and the people she was acquainted with, yet she trusts some of her most intimate secrets with a foreigner. I’m curious about how Sultana would have met Sasson to start with and how Sasson would have been able to be around Sultana enough to write four books about Saltana’s life. Surely, Sultana’s husband would have eventually grown suspension about this relationship.
This is one of the first books I’ve read about the Saudi Arabian culture. While I am familiar with current issues and women rights of Saudi women in the 21st century, I was still surprised by many of the facts presented in the book. Being a “woman of the west” (as they referred to US women), I was slightly offended by the way US women are portrayed by Saudi Arabian men and that even Princess Sultana believed that US women have lower standards for values. Some of the things she referenced her brother saying about US women made me think about what other men (and women) in other cultures think of us.