Excerpt from Seraglio by Janet Wallach, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Seraglio

By Janet Wallach

Seraglio

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Knowing I had a way with languages, she looked at me to translate; from the label on the dress, I assumed the girl spoke French.

"What is your name, how old are you, and where are you from?" I asked.

"My name is Aimee du Buc de Rivery," she answered in a quiet voice, making me strain to hear her. "I am thirteen, and I am French from Martinique."

"And how is it that you are here?"

"My father is the owner of a great sugar plantation. He sent me to school in Nantes. I had been there for three years when he ordered me home. But I never reached my destination. My ship was seized by pirates, I was taken to Algiers, and then brought here." Her voice was a little stronger now and I began to hear the melodic rhythm of the Creole. "My father is a rich man. He will pay you whatever you want to have me sent home." The head mistress ignored the offer.

"Have you any talents? Can you dance or sew? All the girls here must sew," I added.

She smiled a tiny smile and pulled a small embroidered cloth from inside her entari. "Here is something I hid when the pirates came on board my ship." She raised her head and I could see defiance in her eyes. "It is my favorite handkerchief and I keep it for luck. I sewed it myself at school."

She held it out but the mistress refused to touch it. Standing closer, I could see the stitches and knew the girl was able. "What about music? Do you play an instrument?"

"But, of course," she answered. Using her slender hands to show how she held a violin and a bow, she pretended to play. "Bach, Mozart," she said.

A few more words from the head mistress and the girl was dismissed, brushed off like a bothersome fly. Once again she was put in my charge, and I took her through a hallway, down a narrow flight of stairs, and into the dank basement where the novices slept. I opened the door of the windowless room, and when she saw the divans lining the walls, I could tell she wanted to sit, but I threw my head back, raised my eyebrows, and clucked my tongue to tell her no.

She grabbed my arm. Her voice was as sweet as a nightingale's. "I cannot tell you how pleased I was to hear you speak my language," she said. "It has been a long time since I have conversed with anyone, and my heart twinges at the thought."

"You are not to speak French any longer," I ordered. "You are to forget the name Aimee, and who your family is and where you come from. You are in the harem now. You will learn Arabic and Turkish; you will study Islam; you will become a Muslim."

Excerpted from Seraglio by Janet Wallach Copyright© 2003 by Janet Wallach. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.