Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones

Born A'isha bint Abi Bakr in seventh century Arabia, she would become the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and one of the most revered women in the Muslim faith. Married at the age of nine, The Jewel of Medina illuminates the difficult path A'isha confronted, from her youthful dreams of becoming a Bedouin warrior, to her life as the beloved wife and confident of the founder of Islam.

Extensively researched and elegantly crafted, The Jewel of Medina presents the beauty and harsh realities of life in an age long past, during a time of war, enlightenment, and upheaval. At once a love story, a history lesson, and a coming-of-age tale, The Jewel of Medina provides humanizing glimpses into the origins of the Islamic faith, and the nature of love, through the eyes of a truly unforgettable heroine.

Shortly before The Jewel of Medina was scheduled to be published with Random House they issued a statement that the book wouldn't be published due to possible threats. While they should be concerned with security, I thought their reaction was excessive. Jones was able to secure another publisher, and The Jewel of Medina hit stores in October 2008.

I enjoy historical fiction, but haven't made much time for it lately. I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, and was excited to read it after all the controversy.

A'isha was a fairly likeable heroine. She was strong willed and quick witted, and this was both a blessing and a curse. Her sharp tongue often caused her problems with her sister-wives and her husband. Her immaturity also came through, as it should, as she was quite young when she married Muhammad.

One critic of the book called it "soft-core pornography", and I found that to be grossly exaggerated. The writing was a bit flowery for my taste, but not even remotely explicit. I believe that the criticism of the book was based on the fact that Muhammad was not always written in the most flattering light. For example, there are a couple of scenarios in the book where A'isha thought Muhammad's love of power was greater than his love of God.

My favorite part of the book was the interaction between the sister-wives. This gave a sense of the times they lived in and also highlighted how most women were treated. Muhammad was an exception in that he seemed to listen to and value the opinion of his wives.

For me, good historical fiction makes you want to read and learn more about the time period the book was set in. The Jewel of Medina introduced me to an interesting time, and I would like to learn more. 3 stars

The book's official website is here and a couple of newspaper reviews of the book can be found here and here.

Order The Jewel of Medina


Minding Spot said...

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Anonymous said...

Only three stars? Would it be okay to ask why? (I have it in my pile.)