The Book of Saladin – Islam Quintet II

Published by Verso, 1999

The second installment the epic five volume series of historical novels, The Islam Quintet

A rich and teeming chronicle set in twelfth-century Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem, The Book of Saladin is the fictional memoir of Saladin, the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem, as dictated to a Jewish scribe, Ibn Yakub.

Saladin grants Ibn Yakub permission to talk to his wife and retainers so that he might portray a complete picture of him in his memoirs. A series of nterconnected stories follow, tales brimming over with warmth, earthy humour and passions in which ideals clash with realities and dreams are confounded by desires. At the heart of the novel is an affecting love affair between the Sultan’s favoured wife, Jamila, and the beautiful Halima, a later addition to the harem.

The novel charts the rise of Saladin as Sultan of Egypt and Syria and follows him as he prepares, in alliance with his Jewish and Christian subjects, to take Jerusalem back from the Crusaders. It is a medieval story, but much of it will be cannily familiar to those who follow events in contemporary Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. Betrayed hopes, disillusioned soldiers and unreliable alliances form the backdrop to The Book of Saladin.

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