Skip to main content

Book Review: The Twentieth Wife








A novel set during the Mughal period bringing to life characters from your History books, and possessing all the qualities of a good romance novel (and alas just that!).
*******************************************

It is not the first time that I keep colliding with a book everywhere I turn. 'The Twentieth Wife' by Indu Sundarsena and I bumped at Kindle lists, on the book blogs, some IG handles of book lovers I follow as well as on the comments and posts of the reading  group on FB. Thus, taking the hint from Providence I downloaded it on my Kindle along with  a handful of others, a few days back. I started to read it some 3 days back and finished this novel set in 17th century India yesterday evening.

The book tells the story of the woman- Mehrunnissa, whom we all have known fleetingly and as Nur Jahan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. Born in to the family of a Persian refugee, Ghias Beg, Mehrunnissa is left out on the road by the desperate father who knows he can not take care of this blue-eyed child. She is brought back to him, along with a chance at a better life for him and his family by a trader who is on his way to the court of King Akbar. He introduces Beg to the King who bestows mansabs on the man and things begin to look up for the Beg family.

The 8 year old child sees Jahangir for the first time at his first wedding and decides that she must become his wife. Meherunissa, comes to inhabit the zenana of the Akbar's Padshah Begum Ruqaiyya and picks up the nuances of the imperial life. Years before, she is able to realise her dream of marrying Jahangir, she is married off to Ali Quli Khan, a mercenary from  Persia on akbar's orders. 

Most of the novel is made of all these years that Meherunnisa spends with her husband. Interspersed among the aching that this woman feels for the king, are the revolts, rebellions, of that time as well as Portugese conversion  and arrival of English merchants.

The book ends with Jahangir marrying Meherunnisa and giving her the title of Nur Jahan. The story thereafter of the Empress of India and her niece Arjumand Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal and her grand niece Princess Jahanara has been published in sequels completing a trilogy known as the Taj Mahal Trilogy. 

Coming to the writing part of the novel, the initial pages are tight and the story of the family on the run and the Mughal court is interesting. The rebellions, plotting and scheming, men and power struggles of the kings' harem keep you well engrossed for more than half the length of the book. Then it begins to sag and get repetitive of sorts till the end. I was hoping for some more twists in the plots but all I got was a glimpse of the courtship period of the two protagonists.

Another put off, was the editing faux pas in the book. Having been a sub, spelling mistakes, wrong punctuation marks and missing articles- they stand out and call my attention and have a huge impact on my own reading and evaluation of a book.

The book has a distinct flavour owing to liberal the use of Urdu words and that is one thing that really sets the mood of this novel. The author in a note in the book admits being intrigued by this woman who minted coins in her name, owned ships etc and hence her journey to bring her forward from the latticed curtains behind which the women of those times lived.

In my opinion she does succeed to a great extent though it would be only proper to treat the book as fiction rather than a slice of history. Read it if history and biographies are your choice of genres.

********************************************
  
Title: The Twentieth Wife
Author: Indu Sundarsena
Genre: Romance/ History/ Biography
Paperback: 384 pages 
Price: Rs 280 (Paperback)/ Rs 211 (Kindle Edition); Amazon.in
Language: English
Rating: 3.5/5

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reusable cotton pads: My first experience

I had been trying to bring changes for a sustainable living for a while now and using reusable cotton pads for Aunt Flo's monthly visits was an idea that appealed massively to my senses. After searching here and there I found a Kolkata based manufacturer- Shomota- who were also involving women from underprivileged background in manufacturing these pads as well as sharing the profit from sales to make these pads available to girls and women in interiors of West Bengal. BONUS point- I have also come to realise that sustainability is more efficient and worthwhile if you choose local. Also the fact that we are dumping non biodegradable waste on the planet and that is equal to some sort of violence in my head and I have been brought up on the beliefs laid by the Arya Samaj movement, I needed a better option than the mass marketed sanitary pads. I looked and examined a few option that I realised were available to me before making up my mind on the reusable cloth pad.

Why I chose cloth p…

Of new resolutions and newer authors

The year has started on the right note. I have already read two authors whom I had not read before falling hard for the one being hailed as Japanese Steig Larrson- Keigo Hagashino.
That is what got me thinking about new year resolutions  (I know we are done with the first quarter) which I haven't made in years. So here is a list of authors that I would like to sample this year.
-
1. Manu Joseph
2. Pico Iyer
3. Anthony Horowitz
4. Margret Atwood
5. Toni Morrison
6. Chimamanda Adichie
7. Jo Nesbo
8. Neil Gaiman
9. Terry Pratchett 10. Alice Munro
But I also realise the futility of making a list like this as there are just so many authors, poets, writers and just so many works coming to fore everyday. A book group might help, you would think but let me tell you that it complicates things further. New recommendations, fantastic and not so fantastic reviews, pictures, blog posts and what not really makes matter well,complicated.
All said and done, it is but human to try and so I shall …

The Happiness Connection

Suicides by two hugely popular public figures- Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain- within three days of each other.

One a fashion designer and business woman par excellence and another a famous cook, TV personality.

There have been many others before them. Though I knew just a thing or two about them the news about Robin William's suicide was heartbreaking for me. I remember thinking how could someone who laughed so much and made people laugh, do that. While there is so much being written in the social media about mental health in light of these two suicides I was stuck by a particular post in part on Ariana Huffington's Instagram feed. It is a Repost of a tweet by editor Elaine Welteroth and says:

..... And in your death we are reminded once again that there is simply no correlation between happiness and success.

How true is that! We have no idea about what makes us happy. It is easy to confuse happiness with material things, isn't it? Getting a Kate Spade bag any day would…