I fear this may upset some, but...

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I fear this may upset some, but...

Post by Alan »

My review of "The Sultan's Daughter" from Goodreads

I am a Dennis Wheatly fanatic. I regard the Duke De Richleau and his "Modern Musketeers" as some of the most interesting in all adventure literature, the "Scarlet Imposter", Gregory Sallust as the most kick-ass secret agent that ever appeared between covers, and the "Roger Brook" series as one of the most entertaining historical sagas ever penned. "The Sultan's Daughter" is no exception to this rule - it's a great read, full of twists and turns, that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

So why the one star*, you ask? It's like this.

I am in no way overly obsessed with political correctness, and when reading Wheatley I've long ago learned to handwave his less likeable opinions - Wheatley believed that one Englishman was worth fifty wogs, the poor were put there by God and had better suck it up and respect their betters and gays had no right to live. Fair enough, I'm willing to grit my teeth and accept that in Wheatley's heyday these ideas were acceptable, even mainstream.

But sometimes, you can go too far.

The eponymous "sultan's daughter" is a girl who is being menaced by French soldiers and rescued by the noble Roger Brook. But Brook does not simply comfort her and set her free - no, he takes ownership (even using that exact word himself), regards his having saved her as giving him the right to rape her, and does so, in as violent and humiliating a manner as possible. Furthermore, Wheatley even expects us to sympathize with Brook, on the grounds that it was normal in the Napoleonic era to treat women this way, and that she was still better off than she would have been among the soldiers, being gang-raped!

Now, if this had been simply to set Brook up for a fall, I might have gone along with it. But in fact, later when he is in the girl's power, and she has the power to turn him into a eunuch, it's revealed she's fallen in love with him, and ends up saving him! It doesn't take too much of a stretch to regard this as condoning rape, and supporting the "all girls secretly like it and want to be violated and treated rough" excuse that's sometimes trotted out for this revolting act.

Now this certainly isn't a generally held opinion among decent people (regardless of gender) in our day, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't even acceptable at the time this story was written (I've known quite a few people that were born at the same time as Wheatley)... this book gave me an extreme distaste for Wheatley and Brook, and if this was a generally occurring philosophy and action in his stories, I'd toss my entire Wheatley collection in the trash and never read him again. Thankfully, it isn't, and his heroes treat women a lot more decently in most of his books, but this volume represents a truly black spot among Wheatley's otherwise entertaining oeuvre, and it gets my anti-recommendation on those grounds!

A shame, since it has so many other virtues - but this one thing alone makes me hate it!

* The "Goodreads" site at www.goodreads.com encourages reviewers to allocate a rating of 1-5 stars for each book reviewed.
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Re: I fear this may upset some, but...

Post by Darren »

Alan wrote:I've long ago learned to handwave his less likeable opinions.
I think we all do this. I don't think you will upset anyone by your comments, you raise an issue that most of us generally acknowledge and agree is no longer acceptable (and hasn't been for decades) - it explains his current lack of popularity. But, so that I can enjoy everything else about DW's books, life and WWII contributions, I like to use Phil Baker's description of his work - vintage.

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Post by shanedwyer »

Brook, being in possession of the King’s Commission, should have known better and acted accordingly. Rape was more than frowned upon by the British officer class of the time. Although the British other ranks did, notoriously, indulge in drunken sprees of rapine against the Spanish peasantry in the Peninsular War, the brass would hang as many of the miscreants as they could lay their hands on. Unlike their French counterparts- who considered rape as a legitimate perk of service in the Grande Armée.

So, yes, it would have been lovely if DW had, in Alan's words, set Brook up for a fall. Perhaps with the Sultan's Daughter returning the 'compliment' with the business end of his carbine.
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