Book Review: Harem by Alev Lytle Croutier

About:
Harem: The World Behind the Veil (25th Anniversary ed) by Alev Lytle Croutier is a non-fiction book first published in 1989. I received an updated version for review.

  • 232 pages
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press; 25th Anniversary ed. edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789212064


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Thoughts:
Harem: The World Behind the Veil by Alev Lytle Croutier is an eye opening book which shatters most of the misconceptions we have about harems in the Middle East thanks to pop-culture, movies, literature and deviant minds. Harem, as I discovered, simply means “a separate part of a house where women lived in isolation, having no contact with men other than their blood relatives. The term does not necessarily imply the practice of polygamy.”

Harems were in all levels of society, not necessarily the privileges of sultans and pashas but of those who could take care of several wives (Islam allows up to four at one time). I never realized that an ordinary man could have a harem in everyday life in the midst of society.

The author writes about how harems worked, the occupants and the politics of them. Ms. Croutier explains the ranking of the women within the harem and examples of famous sultans and not so famous ordinary people and the women in their lives. I did not know, for example, that most of the women in a harem never saw the sultan but were kept there as slaves, were sold by their parents for a better life or were kept as “gifts” for VIPs and dignitaries. These descriptions are horrible to think of, but for many women a worst future awaited them.

A chapter is dedicated to the men who worked in harems, including eunuchs and their relationship with the ladies as well as the husbands or important men who wished to visit. There are chilling descriptions of how the eunuchs came to be, with unimaginable cruelty towards children and young adults. An interesting but very difficult to read about such horrific acts done in the name of money (young eunuchs were sold for a lot of money).

The book has many pictures from the author’s personal collection, as well as famous paintings depicting life in a harem. This books’ subject is suitable for adults and mature minded people.

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More Books by Alev Lytle Croutier

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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