This story bills itself as about one girl's life in a modern day harem.
It is, tangentially, about that.
More than that it is a story about a troubled young woman, who was on drugs, who became a prostitute, who had a falling out with her parents and ran away to become an "actress". But she was a terrible actress so she stayed a prostitute.
The first quarter of the book is that story.
Suddenly, a mysterious person promises this girl a lot of money if she is willing to "work" abroad. She takes the job.
She ends up in the "harem" - if you want to call it that - with a number of other prostitutes.
The story discusses the politics of life in a harem, how other women are not your friend, how they stab you in the back when you're not looking, etc. etc. The story also discusses in detail how absolutely dull it is to live in a harem. The prince they are waiting on features very minimally in this story.
The end of the story is the young woman's redemption, how she sees that she has moved past the harem, and now has a family of her own and is happy and normal, etc. etc. If that seems abrupt, it is. The "normalization" of the drug addicted prostitute is not discussed - it is simply a "and five years later, she was sitting in her living room with her children and her husband, and she saw a news report about her prince, and she wondered..." Lame.
The story wasn't particularly well written, especially in the beginning, and that seemed to be on purpose - to highlight the transition from the stupid young prostitute to the smug world weary married woman. I don't feel that this technique was effective.
This writer has no ability to paint you a picture and show you what her experience was like, what the palace she stayed at was like, what the prince was like, what the other girls were like. She gets bogged down in physical descriptions (like "blond", "thin", "wearing designer clothes") and misses the more helpful character attributes.
The author would have done much better fictionalizing the account and writing a romance novel or adding some interesting facts about life in a harem. Sensationalizing her experience. Instead, it seems she was constrained to write mostly about the petty politics between the ranked harem girls. Which is about as interesting as an episode of Survivor.
I would not recommend purchasing this book, it wasn't to my taste at all, as I don't enjoy stories about redemption that don't discuss how the subject was redeemed. I don't enjoy books about sensational subjects that don't discuss the sensational. All in all, a fast read that isn't really worth the time at all.
Reading SOME GIRLS, I felt like I was trapped in the cheesy 1970s song referenced in my title above. Jillian Lauren, like too many young women, went astray in her youth, and became a sex worker while still in her teens. Her good looks bring her to the attention of a procurer for the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei and she is offered a position (no pun intended) as a "party girl" in his household. The remarkable thing is not that she accepts the offer, but that she doesn't end up dead. International trafficking in women is epidemic throughout the world, and countless other women have accepted far more innocuous offers of employment only to wind up as sex slaves in foreign countries far from home.
In short order, Jillian finds herself installed in quarters in a fabulous palace in Brunei, lavished with clothing, jewelry and money, in sexual service to a prince. Along with Lord knows how many other young women, all of whom are competing ferociously for the attentions of this man in the hope that he will see something special in them and fall head over heels in love. It's like being trapped in a gilded cage with a bunch of cobras for company.
Like the singer of the 1970s hit, Jillian eventually realizes that life in Prince Robin's harem is empty and meaningless, so she packs up all her loot and returns home. Where she promptly runs through all her money, so she decides to go back to the well one more time. And resolves to be less starry-eyed and more business-like in her dealing with the Playboy Prince.
SOME GIRLS is competently written, but, ultimately, as empty and meaningless as the glamorous life led by the singer in the trite 70s song. I shudder to think how many young women might, inspired by the author's lucrative experience, try to hook up with prince who has a harem, only to find themselves in the hands of pimps and traffickers.
on May 19, 2010
When I saw this book, SOME GIRLS: MY LIFE IN A HAREM by Jillian Lauren, I have to admit that it intrigued me..at a glance, one can't help but wonder if she was 'given' to a king or prince to join his harem? Was she abducted and forced to stay? Did she go willingly? Why and how did she end up there and how is it that she left that she came to write a book about it? Did she escape? Is this REALLY a true story?
It turns out that it is a true (and believable I might add) story about a young aspiring actress who answered to a casting call that ended up being a 'casting call' for fresh new girls to join a harem belonging to a prince of Brunei. As dramatic as it sounds, I could see how easily an eager, young, naive girl who was struggling financially could lose her morals and judgement to keep her self safe could get involved in something like this. Think of all of the young girls flocking to Hollywood or attending some audition or photo shoot by some sleazy creep with alterior motives? Lucky for Jillian, she went willingly, wasn't abused and was allowed to leave (the harem) willingly - when her time was up that is. Regardless of being paid hoards of money and receiving expensive gifts of jewelry and designer clothing shopping sprees, she WAS expected to stay within the palace compound and at times, even in a particular room and expected to be available whenever the prince 'wanted' her OR when he wanted his brother, the Saultan to have her as a gift for an afternoon.
As interesting as the basis of her book, I felt her whole experience and sharing her story with us was wasted on mediocre writing talent...granted, I'm no author myself but it got under my skin to the point where I had to put the book down or skim over areas where she goes on and on about the minor details of what someone is wearing, how they wore their hair that night but yet skipped over gaping holes such as to effectively express how she was feeling at the time or emotional details about the prince. Although she described physical characterists about various characters, I feel like I never got a chance to 'know' them. Being that it was based in Brunei, I felt that she overlooked describing more of their culture and customs in detail as well.
All in all, I guess I'm glad that I read it but then I feel cheated...I feel that 1/3 of the story is missing. Sure she's covered the surface issues but it's missing the heart of the story, the real meat of her experience and of all of the characters in the book. The last chapters in particular were very choppy...like she was rushed to have to meet a deadline or was simply ready for the book to be over with. I'm sure it was much longer but in my head, it 'feels' like she blazed through the ending so fast that she was in one place one day, then woke up tattooed another day, then married with a child the next. Perhaps she didn't want to go into THAT much detail but I can't recall reading how her husband feels about her past....what kind of person is he? How did he take it when she explained his past and further more, how he reacted when she decided to pen this memoir? In the end, she feels to me, a person who is devoid of emotion...perhaps she is emotionally distant and that's why her book is missing so much 'substance'? She feels to me, a person who holds a lot in yet maybe doesn't even realize that she does. In my opinion, in every day life, that's OK if that is how you want to carry yourself but if you are going to write a book about some very personal experiences, you HAVE to open up and let us in, you HAVE to show us more inside of your thoughts, emotions and the thoughts and feeling of those around you. If she was in fact rushed in the end, perhaps her story would have appeared to be more in depth if she had someone else helped her write it?
I give it a solid 3 stars although I WISHED it had been a 5 star book...
on January 23, 2011
Instead of providing an interesting look into "life in a harem," the book is a self-indulgent/meandering attempt at a memoir. In short, it's extremely boring. The author just repeats the same observations about the "harem" - few of which are interesting - and fails to provide a real picture/understanding of what it was like.
Most of the book seems dedicated to explaining away her wrong decisions in life without ever accepting that they were wrong. Many of her childhood stories seem far-fetched and unrealistic. All in all - she comes off as an ungrateful/selfish brat who cannot be trusted.
The book is also sprinkled with random tid-bits about literature, etc. and amateur attempts at psychoanalysis that seem like pained attempts by the author to prove that she is smart, worldly, or something, and are very bothersome to read.
The only touching part of the book is when she describes an abortion that she seemed to have felt "forced" to have and the painful aftermath. However, even with this story, she never actually expresses regret.
on April 23, 2011
Some people earn the right to write about something just because they were there, where the action took place. Imagine a book from a Chilean miner who was trapped in the mine pit. I would buy it.
But it takes at least some talent and honesty in order to tell a good story, even if you are a first hand witness. Lauren has neither.
First of all, maybe 30% of the book is about the "harem". The rest is about a vain, self-absorbed, pretentious girl trying to convince us that she is great because of her inner qualities (not true), and not because she is pretty and guys want to have sex with her (true).
We don't need a spoilers alert, because nothing happens. The Prince has a compound with a mansion and several cottages (small houses) around a swimming pool. He uses an agent who enrolls prostitutes to live there for some months at a time and leave with a lot of money. The only thing they do is to have a sort of karaoke party every night at the mansion. The Prince comes and stays for half an hour, picks up a girl and leaves. That's all. Day after day is the same routine. They never leave the compound, they never get to know the country, they practically don't talk to the prince. If you are expecting adventure, romance, exotism, you won't find it in this book. There is more action in the bar in the corner of your street than in this so-called harem.
Lauren is so insignificant to the Prince that the only time she leaves the compound to see him at his office, they leave her waiting for four hours locked in an office without a bathroom, waiting for his arrival. When she is taken to see the Sultan (the Prince's brother) he doesn't even care to sleep with her, only asking for oral sex. His dogs probably get more consideration. All the while, Lauren thinks she is special and romanticizes the whole sordid thing. When Penthouse playmates arrive at the compound, she tries to convince us that she is so much better than they are. (why?)
But what is worst in the book is the inability of Lauren as an author to describe the personalities and the environment. That's what makes a good book, especially a good travelogue. People are like wax dolls, without real souls. She only talks about the color of their hair, their clothes, but she never tries to go deeper in understanding the personalities of the other girls. Her stay there reminds me of people who travel to Europe but only eat at McDonald's. Unfortunately, Lauren threw away a great opportunity, because the Asian girls there came from very interesting and diverse backgrounds, and must have had great stories to tell.
The other 70% of the book is all about her glorification of herself. What we see are ramblings about a girl who learns to take advantage of men and her looks when she is 14, by having sex with a stranger after losing her ride off a rock concert, just to have a place to spend the night. She is a person who cruises through life by using sex to get what she wants, but she wants us to believe that she is a natural artist. Of course, she meets weak guys (betas) who drool after her and support her delusions. She would be a great dancer if only she practiced enough, she would be a great actress if only she had more luck. Her boyfriend who works hard is a sad "workaholic". She is not a prostitute, she is the sister of all courtesans in history. What she can't face is that she wouldn't even be around her hipster friends were not for her sexual attractiveness (and availability). She needs to build some excuse to hide the fact that everything she received in life was because of her looks. Unfortunately, it seems she is still milking the same cow, since she is publishing another book on the tail of the success of this one, even though she can't write at all.
Maybe if Lauren was born a Plain Jane, she would be more humble and have invest in true human qualities and be a better person. For some girls, beauty is a curse.
on July 12, 2010
This is the story of a young woman (18) who chose to enter the world of high-class prostitution and as a result, ended up in Brunei as part of a modern-day harem. Admittedly, the one-liner sounds significantly more compelling than the 330+ pages that tell the story, but I don't think the book is a throw-away I just wouldn't want anyone to buy it thinking this is really a story about what it's like to live in a harem because that isn't this story.
Instead, this is a story about a girl with a flawed family who chose to leave home and as a result, went through her rebellious late teenage years on her own, without the sort of proper supervision and boundaries and support that keep the rest of us from doing the million crazy things we dream up during those years. She briefly alludes to just this chain of events and suggest enough of her background to make this clear, but in no way does she dwell on this or rely on it to explain her choices or otherwise even moralize. The story is a pretty bare bones tale of what this young girl experienced during these times, her emotions and reactions, not those of society. The more interesting part of the story is actually when she isn't in Brunei, but instead in the states, which is a much more complex, revealing and interesting world. While she writes about having emotions and reactions to things in Brunei, it seems as though she is literally doing that - writing about having them. When she writes about these things state-side, I can actually feel the emotions. My guess is that this is part of the emotional blocking that she engaged in (which she discusses) in order to cope with her situation - that it permanently blocked some of the things that she could have pulled from to create a more compelling story.
It's somewhat interesting that this is a true story, although I didn't believe at any point that it was - the writing and the narration just weren't consistent with that. It was somewhat choppy, with undeveloped characters (including her own) and timing that didn't quite make sense. It's possible that she simply wasn't able to open up enough to tell the story or that it was so upsetting she blocked the memories, but it's not terribly relevant as to the quality of the book. She skips over her last stint in Brunei of several months in a matter of lines and then tells a rambling story about an odd fellow she met who let a pedophile into their home and forced her to have an abortion - a much more compelling story, but something that did not belong in this narrative. There really should have been a separate book about state-side adventures with a short, dense, physical description rich bit about Brunei.
on May 29, 2010
Some Girls is the biographical story of Jillian Lauren, a young Jewish-American girl. Jillian is a rebel, embracing at the age of 16 the life of a stripper and a sex worker. Molested several times, and with a poor self image, and suffering bouts of depression and anorexia, Jillian struggles to be an actress, before finally deciding to travel to Brunei to work as a harem girl.
I found Lauren's `voice' to be intriguing, but I had difficulty relating to some of her decisions and choices. She seemed lost half the time, and many of the things Lauren felt were cool or intriguing seemed sad and disturbing. She lies to those who love and care for her, including her boyfriend and family, does drugs, and has unprotected sex and lies to her boyfriend. There weren't a lot of upbeat bits to make this story go down well, nor was life in the harem really anything worth writing about. Just a bunch of catty mean women vying for the attentions of a predator.
This was an ok read, but not something I felt really gripped me or anything I felt uplifted by. By the end of the story I was rather glad to put it down, since I felt after reading it, that Lauren's life was neither glamorous nor intriguing, just so much wasted potential. The story left me with a sad feeling.
on June 2, 2010
I read this book and I feel like it was trying to pull at my heart strings and it never succeeded. There are books I love like Tayari Jones "Leaving Atlanta." The ending of that book just squeezes my heart and I hold my breathe. This book tried and tried to have that effect but I felt like it was trying to hard to get my attention, to get me to care. For some reason it just missed the bulls-eye big time. Maybe it was over-edited. I can't really be sure. Maybe it was her telling you so many times how numb she was and apathetic that I just couldn't connect or sympathize. While I thought this book would be fascinating it just missed the mark.
on May 31, 2010
The subtitle of this book is "My Life in a Harem" but it should have been "Every Detail of My Life." The author takes 121 pages of a 339 page book to have her first contact with the prince of the Harem.
For the first 60 pages, which are boring expository backstory, I found myself thinking "Let's get the harem, already!" Detail after boring detail, except for the parts I really want to know about. She was a stripper, then a prostitute, then a harem girl. Yet we never get even a glimpse of her feelings, emotions, or moral dilemmas of these "career choices."
The back of the book cover says "more than just a sexy read set in an exotic land..." I found it be neither. Awful.
on January 15, 2011
I will keep this review short. I finished the book, and I do feel better for having done so.
I was initially under the impression that her presence in the harem was against her will, and it wasn't. But, once I got past that bit, I was pulled in by the political aspects of harem life and the ways the women viewed each other, under the circumstances.
I initially heard about this book in a women's magazine (Elle, or Marie Claire or the like) (and btw, I'm a man) and it seemed interesting. I was also happy that it was written by someone who actually lived the life, as opposed to someone just writing about what they were told by others. And to complete the story, the author did have to discuss her life outside the harem as well, but in my opinion, it helped me to connect with her more.
I did feel, though, that the book had an abrupt ending. The last two chapters felt rushed, and I would have like to have a bit more of the details of that section flushed out more (just a little).
In a nutshell, it was a decent read. I would recommend it, as long as you are aware that only half (or maybe less so) of the book actually describes time in the harem itself. The rest is about her childhood, parents, and relationships.