Written by Dora Levy Mossanen
Review by India Edghill

In a timeless Persia that never was, the beautiful Jewess Rebekah is married to a man whose cruelty shapes not only her life, but those of her daughter and granddaughter. Death frees Rebekah from her violent marriage, but the only way she can support her daughter Gold Dust is as a whore. Using every resource at her command, the clever, manipulative Rebekah manages to place Gold Dust in the Sultan’s harem. Gold Dust becomes the Sultan’s favorite, but never forgets her true love, the acrobat Soleiman. While it’s a wonderful story, Harem is not really a historical novel, but a semi-fantasy. Flora, fauna, and facts from many times and places mingle in a kaleidoscope of Arabian Nights imagery. For example, Nakhshe-Del is mentioned as having ruled the Turkish Empire from the harem in the past. Nakhshe-Del died in 1817 – yet later, Persia is invaded by Teymour the Lame, who died in 1405.

Sumptuous and engrossing, Harem is a voluptuous reading experience: the literary equivalent of lolling upon velvet cushions and nibbling upon expensive chocolates. Just don’t mistake it for other than the elegant fable that it is.