Good Reading : December / January 2007
this all about preventing Boaz from spending time with the odalisque he seemed to be favouring? The Valide swept into the room, gorgeously attired in tightly bound dark silks today. She was certainly not going on any boat outing judging by such sumptu- ous attire. Ana’s heart sank – it was defi- nitely true then. She watched the Valide glide effortlessly towards her, not even glancing at Salmeo, who was giving orders to his small army of eunuchs as they prepared to escort the troupe of young women into the world outside. Ana bowed as graciously as she could. ‘Valide,’ was all she would trust herself to say. ‘I see there’s an air of hysteria in the harem this mor ning.’ Ana nodded. She would have to continue the charade. ‘The girls have just found out that the Zar’s boating trip is taking place today. They’ve been looking forward to this since joining the harem.’ ‘I don’t doubt it,’ Herezah answered in her smoky voice. ‘And you, Ana, you don’t echo their joy.’ Her smile was bright. ‘Not since hearing that I will not be joining them on this outing,Valide. I understand that you need my services.’ ‘I do.’ Ana nodded. She dared not say more as she was busy fighting back the tears that the Valide and her chief eunuch had some keen ability to win from her. ‘Why so sad, Ana? Does a day with me sound so disappointing?’ ‘Forgive me,Valide,’ Ana replied, bobbing a small curtsey. ‘I allowed myself to anticipate a day out on the water. I am struggling a little, I’ll admit, to resign myself to the idea that I will not be enjoying this freedom.’ ‘Ah, freedom,’ Herezah echoed. ‘A powerful notion, eh?’ Ana nodded, desperately trying to hide the misery. ‘But what makes you think that freedom has been denied?’ Ana watched the now fully veiled girls being herded out of the chamber where they had gathered. She could see beyond to where Salmeo’s ar my had trunks of provisions to take with them, no doubt from fresh clothes to drying linens if the girls decided to swim. And from the kitchens Ana could imagine another army was steadily marching with an endless array of baskets carrying sumptuous food worthy of the Zar’s special picnic for his women. She sighed. ‘I imagine you have some work for me to do,Valide,’ she replied. Herezah’s eyebrow lifted in sardonic style as she appraised this wilful young woman. ‘If you call a shopping expedition into the city work, then so be it,’ the Valide said in return. Ana couldn’t help her display of surprise. One hand covered her mouth to stop the shriek before it was loosed. Herezah smiled. ‘I can’t imagine what Salmeo led you to believe, my girl, but we are not working on a fine day like this. I promised you an escorted trip into the city, did I not?’ Ana nodded dumbly. ‘Well, hurry up and get ready.’ ‘We’re going together?’ ‘Who else did you think would have the right taste and experience to choose fabrics and jewellery for a Zar’s wife?’ Herezah commented archly. Then laughed at Ana’s still disbelieving expression. ‘I shall give you until the next bell or I leave without you. Fully veiled, remember.’ ‘I’ll be ready in moments,’ Ana said the Valide and wanted to g herself. Perhaps it would a day of freedom after all, d with the reckless mood his had rekindled in her, who knew what could appen? Fiona McIntosh spent the first half of her life in Britain, where she was raised and educated in the seaside town f Brighton before she headed to London to work in PR and marketing. On a globetrotting holiday she discovered Australia and decided to stay. For the last couple of decades she has pursued a career in travel, and has made her home in Adelaide, where she lives with her husband and teenage sons. Emissary is published by HarperCollins this month, rrp $32.99. Odalisque, published in 2005 (rrp $20.99), was a bestseller across Australia, was selected for the Books Alive 2006 campaign, longlisted for the prestigious 2007 IMPAC Award and is selling around the globe. 58 goodreading ı DECEMBER 2006/JANUARY 2007 The Valide swept into the room, gorgeously attired in tightly bound dark silks today. She was certainly not going on any boat outing judging by such sumptuous attire. Ana’s heart sank — it was definitely true then.