Dora Levy Mossanen
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Buy *Harem* online


Dora Levy Mossanen
384 pages
August 2002
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Dora Levy Mossanen dips her honeyed fingers into a fragrant mix of mythology, fancy, historical detail and the power of will. In 14th Century Persia, the sultanas in the royal harem live for the pleasure of their Shah, as they are attended by the eunuchs vested in their own self-interest, hidden from the eyes of the world. While surrounded by the trappings of wealth and luxury, the sultanas are forever restricted by the rigid structure of harem protocol. The pungent scent of opium permeates the air as these women idle away their days awaiting the Shah's pleasure.

Meanwhile, in the abject poverty of the Jewish Quarter, young Rebekah is sold in marriage to Jacob the Fatherless, a base, cruel husband, who enjoys demeaning and beating his innocent bride, excited by her fear. Rebekah bears one daughter, Gold Dust, of the "singing" bones, and schemes to have her only child situated safely in the harem of the Shah. Once this is accomplished, Gold Dust becomes the favorite to the exclusion of the other sultanas, making her an object of jealousy. Gold Dust produces a girl child for her beloved Shah, a beautiful and exceptional albino princess, her father's delight, named Raven. Raven will eventually rule Persia in her own right.

These three women serve as an allegory for the power behind the veil with their talent for adaptation, always seeking to advance their personal interests -- as the matriarch Rebekah, never a woman to be crossed or scorned, is capable of amazing feats on behalf of her family. Her unusual beauty and clever mind take Rebekah far from the entrapment of marriage, and she wields her agile mind as deftly as the Shah cuts with his crested sword, carving a place in history for the future generations of her tribe. This haunting tale is shrouded in layers of imagination as rich as the emeralds and rubies that adorn the Shah and his women. Opiate dreams mix freely with desire, mystery, greed and revenge.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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