Picked this up and burned the midnight oil. It’s one of the most famous books in history, and for centuries it was apparently kept under lock and key in certain parts of the Middle East so virtuous maidens couldn’t read it. One Thousand and One Nights are the never-ending stories told by Shahrazad under sentence of death to King Shahrayar. Maddened by the discovery of his wife’s orgies, King Shahrayar vows to marry a virgin every night and kill her in the morning. To survive, his newest wife, Shahrazad, spins a web of tales each night, leaving the King in suspense when morning comes, prolonging her life for another day.
Gathered from 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. Retold by Hanan al-Shaykh, One Thousand and One Nights are revealed in an intoxicating new voice.
It’s poetic, bawdy and funny, and the suspense created in the stories just makes you want to turn the next page and never stop reading. I have the hardback version, published by Bloomsbury, which cost $A35, and the paperback is due out in July.
Hanan al-Shaykh is a revolutionary. Brought up in a strict, patriarchal environment in a Lebanese Shi’a family, her work is searing social commentary on the status of women in the Arab-Muslim world. I read her book, I Sweep The Sun Off Rooftops, in 2002 and was very moved. Some of her other books have also been published in English, including Beirut Blues, The Story of Zahra, The Persian Carpet, and Women of Sand and Myrrh. She now lives in London.
In this book, heroine Heidi, mourning the death of her husband,travels with Abbott, her troubled eight-year-old son, and Charlotte, her jaded teenage niece, to spend the summer repairing their family home in a small village in the south of France. The rundown stone house in Provence has healed broken hearts and made miracles happen. There, thousands of miles from home, Charlotte makes a shocking confession, and Heidi learns the truth about her mother’s lost summer. As three generations collide, with the neighbour next door, who seems to know all their family secrets, and with an enigmatic Frenchman, they journey through love, loss, and healing amid the lavender fields, warm winds, and the delicious pistou soup of Provence. Published by Allen&Unwin, $A27.99
The number of women who have written bravura erotic masterpieces may be counted on one digit-challenged hand. Another, however, has joined this tiny sisterhood, which includes Sappho, Nin and whoever really wrote Story of O: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.
In July of 2021, sophisticated, well-heeled travellers from all over the world repair to The Mala, an exclusive boutique-resort perched atop the vertiginous cliffs of Oïa/Imerovigli, Santorini. Here, in each of the resort’s six stunning, eccentric villas, visitors know they can count on the owner, the mysterious Kírkē, and her expert staff, to provide for their every creature comfort . . . as well as fulfill their long-unvoiced and secret desires.
Visitors leave behind not only their hearts at The Mala; they also feel free to record the details of their unforgettable sojourns—in writing, line drawings, and song. For years, Kírkē, the Mala’s American owner (and namesake of the legendary sorceress who enchanted Odysseus), has encouraged her guests to reveal their thoughts, dreams, longings and souls in volume after volume of her villas’ “Visitors’ Books.”
The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, is available at www.visitorsbooknovel.com/
Have you travelled well and are bursting to write about it? American doctor Loui Franke self-published her guide book through an increasingly popular medium. Her company of choice was AuthorHouse. She has produced a lovely, heartfelt collection of short stories on living in Paris, the romantic capital of the world. She includes places to visit, travel tips and photos.
Loui and her husband, Dr Stanley Coira, divide their time between south Florida and Paris. They are now retired from the world of medicine. She calls her short stories “snapshots” of their lives in France. Although the primary focus is Paris, other destinations are described that are easily visited by car, train or plane from the City of Lights. I appreciated Loui’s brevity. Well-travelled people often have a lot to say, but the key to a successful travel memoir is knowing what to include, and what to leave out. It’s a good size to tuck into your luggage. Available on Amazon and from AuthorHouse.