In 1840s Damascus, Aslan Farhi leads a miserable life. Despised by his wealthy father, bullied by his siblings, and humiliated by his mother, he forms a close friendship with another boy, only for him to mysteriously disappear when their relationship becomes public knowledge.
Aslan is horrified when his father arranges for him to be married to the rabbi's daughter, but the ordeal of the wedding is unexpectedly lightened by the presence of an exotic dancer, Umm-Jihan, with whom he becomes entranced.
But all is not as it seems and, confused and unhappy, Aslan embarks on an ill-advised relationship with an Italian monk, with disastrous consequences.
A harrowing tale of love, lust and betrayal in 19th-century Damascus...Hilu has taken a piece of history and cast it in another light
[He] writes with great panache
Exotic...a very bold journey