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Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
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"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
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© Tanos
1997-2016

"Harem" by Colin Falconer

Posted by Tanos on Mon 14 Jan 13, 8:35 PM

Colin Falconer's novel Harem (or "The Sultan's Harem") was a free Kindle download over Christmas so I had a look. Falconer is a bestselling author of historical fiction, which is a genre I don't often read, but I was pleasantly surprised.

It doesn't display the detailed research of McCullough's series of books on Julius Caesar, or even S.M. Stirling's attention to military obscurities in his alternate histories, and I would have appreciated a bit more although for some people that really breaks the narrative flow. Despite this it does give a flavour of harem life and the Ottoman political system.

The novel is divided into four parts. Part One is set in the Ottoman sultan's harem in Constantinople and is quite plausible, but the plot gets a bit shaky as we visit Venice and other Mediterranean locations before returning to the Imperial Harem. This hinges on a rather glaring leap about how old people could be and still get positions in the harem system, which I won't spoil in case you read it.

Having said all this, if you enjoy historical fiction to dip into other times and places you may well enjoy it, and the one point mentioned above aside, you won't be terribly mislead about the Imperial Harem, as a cross between a girls' boarding school, convent, and extremely discreet high class brothel rather than somewhere sultans had private orgies every week.

Edited Mon 14 Jan 13, 8:47 PM