Book Review | Harem

For those of you who don’t know, I studied history as an undergrad. I am a huge history buff, and I love learning about new historical events or time periods. But it’s been a while since I’ve read a history book (not historical fiction – actual history). I decided to get back into the genre with Harem by Alev Lytle Croutier.


Drawing on first hand accounts and memoirs, Harem explores the history of harems, and the women who lived in them. The book spans from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, and covers all aspects of harem life. Inspired by her own family history, Croutier brilliantly presents an inside view into the harem. Her book delves into a subject which, during it’s time, was both exotic and commonplace. She describes harems both royal and middle-class, and elaborates on the lives of the women who lived in them, the men who enjoyed them, and the eunuchs who guarded them.

As I mentioned, it’s been a while since I’ve read a history book. And while I love history, I have to admit that most history books tend to be somewhat dry. Harem, however, is anything but.

Rating: ★★★★✩

I really enjoyed this book! It’s not a subject I was familiar with going in, and over the course of the book, I became fascinated with it. Like many people, I kind of had a vague idea of harems as just a group of women living together with the sole purpose of pleasing the sultan or king. That’s just a tiny part of a much bigger world. Harem women often had immense power – often directly influencing the sultan politically. Croutier presents an interesting and dynamic picture of a practice that was highly important to its society. If you’re at all interested in harems or the history of the Middle East or Western Asia, I would highly recommend Harem. And if you’re looking to get into history books, this would make a great start!

Harem is available here!

This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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