Author: *retelling* Hanan Al-Shaykh
Genre: Classics, Retelling
Blurb: Witty, poetic, erotic and brutal, One Thousand and One Nights are the never-ending stories told by the young Shahrazad under sentence of death to King Shahrayar. Maddened by the discovery of his wife's orgies, King Shahrayar believes all women are unfaithful and vows to marry a virgin every night and kill her in the morning. To survive, his newest wife Shahrazad spins a web of tales night after night, leaving the King in suspense when morning comes, thus prolonging her life for another day. Written in Arabic from tales gathered in India, Persia and across the great Arab empire, these mesmerising stories tell of the real and the supernatural, love and marriage, power and punishment, wealth and poverty, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate. Now adapted by Hanan al-Shaykh the One Thousand and One Nights are revealed in an intoxicating new voice.
Me: First official book in my Read the World challenge! A retelling of a classic that I greatly enjoyed.
The Ups: The entire context of the stories, and how Shahrazad saves her life and others lives by continuing to tell stories is just genius. It sets the stage for incredibly fascinating tales (they would have to be good, for Shahrazad to stay alive) and the nineteen that Al-Shaykh chose to retell were so intriguing and often humorous.
Most of all, I loved the feminine power within the stories. Sometimes it was negative, because men started to view women as demons that could only deceive and cheat and trick, but in a particular scene where the Caliph tells three women to marry suitors he decides on, each replies with a firm "No". They are kind and respectful but strong, and their resilience is proven when their pain and suffering is revealed as they each tell their stories. In Shahrazad's brave mission to save herself and save the lives of other women, we see another character embodying wisdom and cleverness in a woman, but also cunning.
The stories told from all the unique characters that present themselves, often weaving in fantasy and magic, are told with incredible, witty descriptions that can often be surprisingly vulgar. It explores the stereotypes of men and women and their complex relationships, along with how the society and rituals dictate the decisions each gender makes regarding each other.
The Downs: The stories could feel a little repetitive at times, as each one involved deceit and treachery, along with love and sexual acts.
Another personal downside was that the book didn't give much insight into the country of Lebanon as I would have liked, but the stories themselves and the writing was wonderful.
OVERALL: A great retelling of an Arabian classic that engages and entertains.
"But it is impossible for me to marry you...I do not wish for a life other than the one I am living, without a man."
Rating: 4 kisses!