Book of the Week: The Grand Vizier of the Night

The Grand Vizier of the Night by Catherine Hermary-Vieille was first published in English by Quartet in 1988 and reprinted in a new edition in 2014.

Over ten consecutive evenings a dying Ahmed tells the story of his old master’s life. The story is so powerful and the effect on his listeners so great, Ahmed is named The Grand Vizier of the Night…

Set in the Islamic Empire in 785AD, a tale of power, war, love and religion unfolds. It begins with Arab Harun-al-Rashid becoming Caliph of the Empire. Harun soon falls in love with a Persian man, Ja’far, but is devastated to find the love is unrequited. Ja’far is in love with the Caliph’s sister, Abassa. Harun allows the couple to marry, but forbids the consummation of the marriage. His order is defied and Abassa soon gives birth to twins. They have betrayed the absolute leader and will suffer the consequences. 

Catherine Hermary-Vieille explores the restrictions of life in the Islamic court and the traditional rites of marriage and religion. With the struggles of man and woman pervading the pages, The Grand Vizier of the Night is a profound commentary on the human condition.

Every friend to whom I gave the book over the years could not put it down. They were gripped, enchanted by its hypnotic power in keeping the sexual tension going until the last page. No one could explain its mysterious hold on the mind of the reader.

I found no parallel I could think of, which transforms every vestige of our inner feelings in a turbulent state that is undefinable yet entrancing to breaking point.

The book is exotic as well as a classic which will never date.

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