Review: Princess – More Tears to Cry

BY Shriya Garg IN B+, Non-fiction NO COMMENTS YET

By Jean Sassoon. Grade: B+

Princess – More Tears to Cry is the fourth book in the (in)famous Princess series written by bestselling author and Middle-east expert Jean Sassoon. The series chronicles the life of Princess Sultana, a woman born in one of the highest royal families of Saudi Arabia who wants to speak out about the treatment of women in her country and has enlisted the help of Ms. Sassoon for the cause. Nobody knows the true identity of Princess Sultana – in fact, her very existence is under question in the literary circles. All we know is that she is a woman who is wiser than her peers, and ahead of her times, and wants desperately for her country to change. In my land, only the man and the wind are free.

Princess – More Tears To Cry

Bestselling author Jean Sasson has been revealing the stories of Middle Eastern life for more than twenty years. Told through the eyes of Princess Sultana, the Princess series has brought readers from around the world behind the veil of Saudi Arabian life and exposed the terrible gender restrictions and discrimination women continue to face today.

In her new book Princess Sultana vividly describes life inside one of the richest, most conservative kingdoms in the world. This is a world where male guardians rule every aspect of a woman’s world – from whom she marries, to where she works. The Princess leads a privileged life with multiple villas and servants, but even she must work in secret to record these stories of women who have been beaten, scorned and even hanged.

But this book is also a very human, endearing look into the life of a loving Saudi family and their friends. It is filled with emotional outbursts at family celebrations, a reckless car chase through the streets of Riyadh, tender moments with a beloved grandchild, two adult daughters who cannot stop disagreeing about their different views of veiling, a happy romance and always a search for justice.

As a female born and brought up in middle class India, I have learned to take abuse in stride. We have been conditioned to such a level of antipathy that cases of eve-teasing, rapes, dowry-killing, honour killing, female foeticide or marital rape don’t even elicit a flicker. I thought India was one of the worst places for a woman to be born. However, the Princess Series have proved otherwise.

Jean Sassoon has done wonderful with this semi-biographical piece. This book educates you in the Saudi Arabian culture through a smooth, flowing narrative in the form of Princess Sultana’s diaries. They start off with stories about her own family members, the abuse she suffered because even as a child she was a girl who liked to speak her mind. We get to know about her childhood rivalry with her brother who was always given special preference because he was a male, and later, we get to explore the Princess’s mind as she worries over her children, and their life choices.

For those readers who are curious about social mores of other societies, this comes across as an authentic, educational piece of work. Some of the stories will make you flinch, some will make you cry, while others will make you close the book and stare at the wall for a few minutes to come to terms with what you have just read. As for the prose, it is precise and succinct, but could have done with a little vibrancy and richness.

Before I conclude, there a small caveat that needs to be added. In all honesty, I cannot write an unbiased review without disclosing that the book has been involved in a major lawsuit, and alleged to be highly inaccurate by various experts. The book does present an extreme world-view, and many Saudi Arabians are surprised that the rest of the world has accepted it. I am not going to speculate further, but readers interested in finding out more should check out this interesting article.

To sum up, keep your skepticism aside and pick it up if you would like to know how truly privileged you really are.

Shriya Garg
Reader. Writer. Dreamer. Admin.

Caffeine junkie. Book smeller. Addicted to my laptop. In love with fictional characters.

College student. Aspirant Chartered Accountant. Proud member of the Harry Potter generation. Possibly thaasophobic. Whovian, with a highly inappropriate sense of humour. And the happy owner of five cats.