Barnes & Noble
Published by: Touchstone
Release Date: July 28, 2002
A seductive and intriguing journey from the humble Persian Jewish quarter to the fascinating world of shahs, soothsayers, eunuchs, and sultanas, Harem follows three generations of strong-willed and cunning women: Rebekah—a poor girl married to the abusive blacksmith, Jacob the fatherless—who emerges from her disastrous match with a mysterious brand between her breasts; Gold Dust, Rebekah’s treasured daughter, who enters the opulent and perilous world of the harem and captivates the shah with her singing bones; and Gold Dust’s daughter, the revered and feared albino princess Raven, who will one day rule the empire.
Rich in visual imagery, Harem vividly depicts the exotic bazaars and dangerous alleys of the city and palace chambers brimming with conspiracy and betrayal—as well as love and redemption. A skillfully crafted, intricately textured novel, Harem represents the beginning of a remarkable literary career.
“Elegant. Rich with myth, history, politics, fantasy, and life intermingled—as if the voice of an Isabel Allende of Persia has emerged.”
“This haunting tale is shrouded in layers of imagination as rich as the emeralds and rubies that adorn the Shah and his women.”
—Curled Up With a Good Book
“A richly imagined feminist fable—a feast for the senses.”
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means
“Compulsive reading right from the start. Gorgeous imagery and outrageous characters whose stories grab you and hold you enthralled till you've turned the final page.”
—Robin Maxwell, author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Virgin
“HAREM reads like a wondrous cross between Colette and Sir Richard F. Burton. The dark lights and vivid tableaux Ms. Mossanen conjures stay with you long afterward. A very impressive, and adventurous, debut.”
—Nicholas Christopher, author of Franklin Flyer
“Sexier than a stable of Playboy bunnies, more adventuresome than a Greek romance, able to confound expectations on every single page, Dora Levy Mossanen’s first novel, Harem, is truly astonishing.”
—Robert Hellenga, author of The Sixteen Pleasures and Blues Lessons
“An important contribution to the growing canon of women’s mythology in contemporary literature. From the first sentence I was as captivated as I used to be as a child when my mother read me fairy tales from around the world. The quality of myth that the author achieves is stunning.”
—Christin Lore Weber, author of Altar Music
"Lush and erotic, this first novel overflows with the magic and sensuality of Arabian Nights tales, 19th-century orientalist paintings and languorous, silken-pantalooned harem beauties. Set in 14th-century Persia, the tale moves easily between the crowded, garbage-strewn alleys of the Jewish quarter and the magnificent palace of the shah. The shah's palace harem is concealed behind a tracery of delicately carved stone panels, where his 365 wives and their many attendant eunuchs lounge, and the queen mother, Bibi Sultana, rules. In the Jewish quarter, the characters are Rebekah, the indomitable heroine; the ancient Zoroastrian, a seeress; the one-eyed rabbi; the merchant Rouh'Allah, who realizes nearly too late he loves Rebekah; and Moses, fated to be gelded and become a lover to the shah. Rebekah is only 10 when she's married to Jacob the Fatherless, a brutal blacksmith, and branded by him with a hot iron bar between her breasts, a mark that will assume nearly supernatural importance. After Jacob commits suicide, Rebekah becomes a prostitute to support her child, Gold Dust. Determined to place her daughter within the harem, she sells her charms to Narcissus, the chief eunuch, even though he carries "his manhood pickled in a jar." Gold Dust becomes the shah's favorite, but provides the sonless ruler with another daughter, Raven, who will eventually be as implacable as her grandmother. The multifaceted story involves an invasion by the Mongol hordes under Teymour the Lame (Tamerlane) and daring escapes by Rebekah and Gold Dust. Shamelessly exotic, it's a delightful read and a grandly romantic escapade."
I am not certain how long it took Harem to gestate, simmer and bake, before I gathered my courage to take pen to paper. Perhaps thirty years, perhaps more. How does one add and subtract to calculate the many years of intense listening, interviewing, gathering information, and the actual years of writing that would result in Harem, a book I dreamed about from childhood? As unbelievable as it sounds, the first seeds of an idea planted in my head, to holding a published book in my hand, must have taken me forty years.