The English Harem

By Anthony McCarten

ISBN: 9781846883798

384 pages

RRP: £6.39

Supermarket checkout girl Tracy Pringle has a very lively imagination indeed. In front of her, as she blip-blips herself into a daydream, walk past not boring housewives with screaming children or tired office clerks, but the likes of Lord Byron, Lawrence of Arabia and Princess Leia. It comes as no surprise, then, that she turns a blind eye when Her Majesty herself pops a packet of Mr Kipling’s Bakewell tarts into her handbag without paying. Obviously, the management sees it differently, and Tracy is given the sack on the spot and forced to find herself another job.

But nothing can prepare her for the new life that awaits her at the Taste of Persia restaurant, where she is flung headlong into a clash of cultures, languages, dinner plates, religions and a rather tricky domestic arrangement…

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  • He makes it all look so simple, but his classical, direct technique belies his daring choice of material. There is not a false sentiment or conventional genuflection in this book … Everyone who reads McCarten’s generous, humane, funny and moving novel will come away enriched.

    Timothy Mo

  • McCarten’s novel hovers between indignant satire and engaging comedy of manners while sounding a clarion call against the bigotry and intolerance in our society.

    Sunday Times

  • Anthony McCarten dares to speak of English multiculturalism in the satirical tone that most native writers keep mute.

    The Observer

  • High farce laced with some acute observations on racial prejudice, bigotry, the strength of women's bonds and an exploration of Islam.


Anthony McCarten

Anthony McCarten’s debut novel, Spinners, won international acclaim, and was followed by The English Harem and the award winning Death of a Superhero, all three books being translated into many languages. McCarten has also written twelve stage plays, including the worldwide success Ladies’ Night, which won France’s Molière Prize, the Meilleure Pièce Comique, in 2001. Also a film-maker, he has thrice adapted his own plays or novels into feature films which he directed himself.

Read an interview with Anthony McCarten here