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3.49  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  49 reviews
A seductive and intriguing journey from the humble Persian Jewish quarter to the fascinating world of shahs, soothsayers, eunuchs, and sultanas, Harem follows three generations of strong-willed and cunning women: Rebekah -- a poor girl married to the abusive blacksmith, Jacob the fatherless -- who emerges from her disastrous match with a mysterious brand between her breast ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 6th 2002 by Atria Books (first published 2002)
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3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  468 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Ana Mardoll
Dec 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ana-reviewed
Harem / 0-7432-3021-3

"Harem" is a great example of how *not* to write; this promising novel is completely riddled with Mary Sue characters and "tell, don't show" writing.

The three multi-generational Mary Sues here are Grandmother Rebekah (stunningly violet eyes), Daughter Gold Dust (molten yellow eyes), and Granddaughter Raven (ruby red eyes and silver hair that glows in moonlight). Grandmother Rebekah possesses magical brand in the center of her chest that changes color and shape depending on
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. It's so rich and full of colour and flavour, and taboo history. As a writer, I wonder what one has to do to write like Mossanen. "Harem" reminded me of Colette's work, but without all of the French-ness and bit more "erotique"...
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Takes place in 14th century Persia, story of 3 women, Rebekah, Gold Dust (yes that’s her name), and Raven. Great imagery, I felt like I was in the harem in Persia.

Learned some Persian history.
Ian Cruz
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Highly visual and evocative, Mossanen brings us a novel that pleases the human sensuality while upholding the empowerment of women. Centering on three generations of female protagonists, "Harem" points out the weaknesses of men in society and teaches the general public how women, though seemingly frail and powerless against the tides of a male-dominated history, take their own role in shaping the world. Vividly visual with Ancient Persia's myth and grandeur, Mossanen takes her readers on a journ ...more
Mar 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
I wasn't expecting to dislike this book, but it wasn't what I expected. Was this supposed to be historical fiction or fantasy? The boundaries were too distorted for me. I was hoping for something on the level of Rebecca Kohn's The Gilded Chamber and I was disappointed.

The main character was not admirable, sure she is out to make a good life for her daughter by any means possible. Truly. But, was it really necessary for the author to write an explicit sex scene between her (a seasoned prostitute
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Jewish women enter the Turkish harem. The description of the tastes and scents made the scenery come alive. I was also intrigued by the magical elements. The three-generation storyline teetered on the edge of "epic" and basically justified the 378 pages. Some additional thoughts were posted to Helium.
Tana-Rae Collins
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The story of three cunning women and the way the all get what they want in the end. I love it. Mother, daughter and grand-daughter, three generations all living completely different lives. It was extremely vivid for me. I read it all in one sitting. For a debut novel I think it was worth every penny and every minute of my time.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
The first two sections of the book that introducted Rebekah & Gold Dust were not too bad....but did not enjoy the last portion that included Raven. Found the book centered on the characters and not on the "Harem". Title confuses you on what the book really is about.
Nyari Baptista
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for all those people out there who, like myself, enjoy the tales of seduction and intrigue.... in a journey from the humble Persian Jewish quarter to the fascinating world of shahs, soothsayers, eunuchs, and sultanas!!!
lola Franco
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book. bizarre, but good.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The story disturbed me profoundly...well pretty much any story involving incest puts me in the disturbed category. That being said, it was extremely intoxicating and well written. It also, sadly, simply added to the large amount of literature that mystifies and orientalises the Middle East!
Laura Saxon
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good. I liked the part where Rebekah decided to take her daughter to the harem so she could have some sort of future.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Red Morgan
This is a story centering around 3 women: Rebekah, a Jewish girl who's sold into marriage by her mother; Gold Dust, Rebekah's daughter; and Raven, Gold Dust's albino daughter. Rebekah's husband is abusive and nasty, and she tries to leave him but cannot. When he finally dies, she has to do what she must to survive, and she becomes a prostitute. Rebekah also begins collecting a dowry for Gold Dust and searching out the perfect husband for her. When those plans fall through, Rebekah turns to the r ...more
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: guys
Recommended to Bonnie by: picked it up at work from the give away pile.
I'm gonna be judgemental and say that I'm surprised a woman wrote this book. It toed the line between being a novel and porn. I'm not talking like "he mounted her with his quivering member" - I'm talkin rim jobs, girl on girl action, incest and putting hungry rodents in certain places. Normally I like a book with some steam to it but it was almost distracting with this one. You had to set the book aside every few pages to jack off.
That being said - I definately recommend this one to all you guys
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This novel was apparently Mossanen's first, and it was an incredible debut. Three generations of women, all amazingly powerful and spiritual in their own ways. Rebekah, the first, has violet eyes and the ability to seduce any man. Gold Dust, her daughter, captivates the shah and becomes the favorite of the harem. Her daughter, Raven, an albino princess who becomes her father's lover, is destined to be the queen of Persia. It's a very rich novel, with settings and descriptions that literally enfo ...more
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very interesting and unique novel about women back in 14th century Persia. The story starts with a young girl who is married off to an abusive blacksmith shortly before her mothers death. She bears him a daughter and after she convinces him to commit suicide and discovers she can't find his hidden fortune she becomes a prostituwe and vows her daughter will have a better life so she wiggles her way into the Shah's harem and gets her daughter married to the Shah. But life within the Harem is not ...more
Tania Manoussaki
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
a magic journey in the persian world full of memories flavors colors thoughts and memories.a wonderfull experience of love between souls and fire inside the bodies and mind.Three woman want everything with any cause .they finally have it after a lot of sorrow pain blood emotional death.when you finish this book you know that true love is outside and she will find you whenever you are.....MAGIGAL USE OF LOVE AND DEATH IN THE SAME TIME...A UNIQUE SAD FAIRYTALE...A TOTAL FEMALE WORK OF POWER USED W ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-own
I bought this at the King's English and well, you know. The title is Harem. What did I expect. The concept in itself is interesting; how does a branded Jewish woman establish herself in the court of a shah through exploiting and supporting her daughter as his wife. The language is thickly laden on, but you know, I might have been expecting more than the book had to give. The end completely falls apart and then dives straight into complete melodrama.
Trejon Dunkley
Ugh I tried y'all. Started out really interesting and magical realistic but then it had a weird "fair and beautiful skin, dark skinned people are subhuman" racial thing and aggggh.
The sex was really vague and gross when it wasn't being vague. There were a lot of times when I was sure sex was happening but I couldn't tell and a prostate stimulation scene I could have gone the rest of my life never having read.
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was just dumb. Smutty, but not even in an exciting way. It was trying to raise the half-hearted romance novel sex to the level of feminist treatise, but how a daughter lusting after her father is supposed to be empowering is beyond me. Basically, all I got out of this book was that the authoress has some issues about men she needed to work out and that she has an obsession with the reactions of her nipples.
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it
I've never been a huge fan of magical realism. This novel definitely includes a hefty portion of the fantastic along with more down-to-earth passages. I'd say that I liked the plot, but some of the details got to me. I also found the ending to be too unbelievable, and not in the magical realism sort of way.
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Very triggery for rape and incest. It's very strange, and I felt like I was in an opium haze the entire time I read this book. I liked parts of it, but other bits were hard to take. I don't quite know if it worked, but I think I would give Ms. Mossanen another try.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was very good. It gives a lot to think about, and makes you question which characters are "good" and "bad," and whether any of them can really be classified as either.

Although I really liked this book, I can't really think of anyone to whom I would recommend it.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Gerbils up the keester, father-daughter incest, flat characters...consider this a yawnfest with the occasional bizarre (and unnecessary) sex interlude (and it isn't even well-written sex).
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Vivid details that had all five of my senses coming alive, as if I were really there.
Sep 21, 2007 added it
One of my favorite books. It has a magical feel to it.
Amy Graf
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Sensual novel, brilliantly creative and fantastical. Vivid images and forbidden subjects are touched upon in a classy way.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Trashy trash......
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully fascinating book!
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Dora Levy Mossanen is an American author of historical fiction. Her published works include Harem (2002), Courtesan (2005), The Last Romanov (2012) and Scent of Butterflies (2014). She is a graduate of the USC Masters of Professional Writing Program and is the recipient of the San Diego State University Editor’s Choice Award.

Dora was born in Israel as the country was gaining its independence. She
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“There was a spectator. A man. He had mad eyes. Like Raven. Moon Face’s words resonated in her mind: “One thing is certain. Children inherit the madness of their fathers.” 0 likes
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