In the Palace of Flowers
by Victoria Princewill
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 1 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2021
Cassava Republic, Cassava Republic Press
Set in Iran at the end of the 19th Century —in the Persian royal court of the Qajars— In The Palace of Flowers is an atmospheric historical novel about Jamila, an Abyssinian slave who stands at the funeral of a Persian nobleman, watching the rites with empty eyes.
In that very moment, she realises that her life will never be acknowledged or mourned with the same significance. The fear of being forgotten, of being irrelevant, sets her and Abimelech, a fellow Abyssinian slave and a eunuch, on a path to find meaning, navigating the dangerous and deadly politics of the royal court, both in the government and the harem, before leading her to the radicals that lie beyond its walls.
Love, friendship and the bitter politics within the harem, the court and the Shah’s sons and advisors will set the fate of these two slaves.
Highly accomplished, richly textured and elegantly written, In The Palace of Flowers is a magnificent novel about the fear of being forgotten.
“In The Palace of Flowers opened up a part of history I knew nothing about and will stay with me for a very long time.” - Ayesha Harruna Attah, Hundred Wells of Salaga
“Transporting us flawlessly to another time and world, this tells the story of two Abyssinian slaves as they navigate the politics, mysteries and drama of the royal court in Iran in the 1890s.” - The Continent with Mail and Guardian, Issue 34
“With captivating storytelling skills and impressive historical knowledge, Victoria Princewill has written an awe-inspiring, dynamic and powerful novel about a part of African history that few other writers have told.” - Minna Salami, Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach to Everyone
“Through beautiful prose the hugely gifted Victoria Princewill transports us to another time and world, telling a story which has one wholly absorbed. Love, danger, politics, history and art, In The Palace of Flowers is a sweepingly stunning tale that has it all.” - Samira Salwani, Journalist
In The Palace of Flowers Blog and Instagram Tour from 4th February 2021 to 3rd March 2021 with book giveaways.
IG Live book launch with respected journalist.
In Conversation with Ellah P Wakatama for The University of Manchester.
Paid Social Promotions.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 21 members
This book in 3 words: sensory, intrigue, historical Reminded me of: actually reminded me a lot of another ARC I’ve read this year, She Who Became the Sun – strong protagonists forging their path in a world that is not theirs to control. An Abyssinian by birth, a slave to the Persian court by events outside of her control, as Jamila watches the funeral of a Persian nobleman in the opening pages of the novel she reflects how marvellous a thing it is to be remembered. Of course, as a slave, she will not be, nor will Abimelech, a eunuch and a fellow slave. This realisation starts Jamila and Abimelech out on a journey to find an identity, a purpose, in love, in radical thought and in loss and letting go. Inspired by a letter, the only one written in the hand of an African Slave in Iran, Jamila Habashi, this novel is steeped in a sense of history and of identity. I really struggled to rate this one at first. As I finished the novel, I really felt I had wanted more for the characters, something happier, something more fulfilled as an ending. But a couple of days to mull it over and I realised, of course, this was never a story that was going to be about happily ever afters for all the characters. This is a story of people bound in a lifetime of enforced ownership over their lives, and no story of slavery can be without loss, no matter how happy the end. Having realised that, I truly enjoyed reading this book. It is rich in both the language of the Persian court and sensory description, meaning I felt like I was being transported in a way I could feel and hear. Princewell was artful in her explanation of some of the unfamiliar names and titles, weaving translations into the text in a way that meant I understood without needing to be explicitly told. The dialogue is also a real strength. It is compelling and real, at times devastating and others clipped and uncomfortable. The way relationships played out, sometimes over only one or two meetings of the characters was artful, and even though there was a large cast of characters, none of them felt extraneous. Each one added to the woven threads of Jamila and Abimelech’s story, and each added a layer to the narrative in a way that left me at the end feeling like I’d read many stories, not just one. This is one I want to come back to and read again, to savour, rather than my usual full pelt reading pace. I’d encourage you to get a copy, and savour it too.
Persian royal court of the Qajars, late 19th century. Jamilla, young Abyssinian slave, after the funeral of high ranked Persian nobleman contemplates about significance of life. Especially lives of slaves. Will they be remembered? She and her friend Abimelech, slave/eunuch find themselves caught in politics, philosophy, court intrigues etc. Beautifully written historical novel about power of education, knowledge, courage, freedom and above all love.
Thank you @NetGalley and @Cassavarepublicpress for giving me this ARC in return for an honest review. This evocatively written #historicalfiction is about the desire to be remembered, to mean something, to be of consequence but there is so much more weaved into the pages. The realisation that it was inspired by the only existing first-person account of an African slave, Jamila Habashi in 1905, makes the novel all the more haunting and poignant. There is history to be learnt from this book and so many pearls of wisdom if you choose to see them. We follow Jamila and Abimelech, through the politics and ideologies of late 19th century Iran and bear witness to the jealousy, pettiness, bitterness, abuse, betrayal and scheming of the harem. Even amongst the slaves, cultural status and skin colour determines position and fate. No matter where they are in the hierarchy, be they nobility or slave, no one is truly happy with what they have. Underneath the rich exterior we see loneliness and longing and the constant struggle for freedom, power and recognition. But we also see a glimmer of hope, of love and friendships formed in the most dire of circumstances. Jamila is given the luxury of books which consequently evokes numerous questions in her mind about “essentialism and existentialism” and shows the power of education in the fight for independence and self worth. The guidance she has from her friend Abimelech who is intelligent and loved by many, is overridden by his desire to rise up in ranks and to be recognised in court, and their friendship and loyalty is tested numerous times. Some of the content is quite explicit and there is mention of abuse, suicide and violence. I was taken on a roller coaster of emotions, frustration, anger, horror and hope. I often felt deeply saddened by the lives of the African slaves. The intricacy of the writing made me sense the pain, despair and desperation of each of the characters and I become invested in their well-being as they faced trials and tribulations and were forced to serve people who used them and abused them for their own means of sadistic gratification. This is an unforgettable story that will stay with me
A truly unique and fascinating read. this is a story of the Persian court and has authentic language and a feel to it that is really magical. There's complex relationships and subjects here and the author has clearly done a lot of research but woven it in so you can't tell. The characters, setting, dialogue - everything really is unique and very well done. Layered and multithreads through the entire novel. That cover is wonderful too!