All three books in Princess Sequel are shocking, thought provoking and fascinating. However, Desert Royal is the weakest one. The proverb the appetite grows with what it feeds on describes so well my experience with Jean Sasson’s work. I expected Desert Royal to be at least as good as Princess and Daughters of Arabia, but what the author offered was disappointing melting pot of various stories…Jean Sasson did not satisfy my booklover’s appetite this time.
Despite my feelings about the quality of the third book, I deeply appreciate the author for revealing cases of appalling brutality against women in Saudi Arabia. She broke salience on unbelievable suffering that still so many women experience in their lives. In Desert Royal, through Jean Sasson, Sultana tells about another case of forced marriage. This time, her heartless brother Ali, married his own daughter to…Hadi!!!!! Yes, yes, the same obnoxious Hadi, who raped eight-year-old girl in Egypt in first book of the sequel. Although he was trained to become mutawwa, according to Sultana he “had absorbed none of the goodness called for in Holy Koran”. Young and shy Munira, who decided to become a social worker and assist the handicapped, was forced by Ali to marry an evil man, a hater of the female gender. There are no words to describe how I feel about men like Ali, who do not deserve to be considered human being.
I also truly appreciate that Jean Sasson raised the subject of intermarriages between non- Muslim women and Saudi men and situation of kidnapped children. Another important issue discussed in this book was using women and children as sex slaves.
The author had interesting ideas for Princess and Daughters of Arabia. The first described childhood and the beginning of Sultana’s adult life, and the later focused on her three children. Desert Royal lacks any focus. It is a melting pot of various stories, as though the author did not have any specific idea for third book. I would even say that Jean Sasson forced herself to write it. Frankly speaking, I expected third book to be about Sultana’s actual “fight for woman’s rights”. In fact, only at the end of the third book we read about creating “Sultana’s circle” for the reason that her own nephew brought sex slave from Pakistan and brutally raped her during family trip.
The most pathetic thing about Sultana is that she actually wasted whole her life on complaining, crying and buying expensive clothes. It was not Sultana but her son Abdullah who took the matters into his own hands and started to support poor families in Pakistan. Sultana would not be herself if she did not put herself in the centre of the universe: “my legacy of assisting women will shine through my son.” What kind of legacy she was talking about? I am waiting somebody to explain me what was Sultana’s legacy of fighting for women’s rights.
There was one scene that engraved in my memory… Sultana travelled with her husband and her sisters to New York, where she “could take pleasure in the freedom for women that she saw all around her”, and where Saudi religious police would not appear with their sticks to strike any woman wearing in “immoral” way. So they took off their vails, dressed up and then they were walking through Manhattan. I immediately reminded scenes from Sex and the City, in which Carrie Bradshaw and her friends were getting-together on the streets of New York. In Sultana case, it was Sex and the City a la Arabia.
Although Desert Royal disappointed me deeply, I still think that Princess Sequel is very much worth reading. Especially now when whole world has watched historic elections in Saudi Arabia with great curiosity.