This novel is the book that we are going to discuss at my Third Tuesday Bookclub meeting (April 19th, 2016). Set in 17th century Agra, India, and based on real people and events, it is a wonderful book about the power of love and the (lesser) power of hate.
Jahanara is the eldest daughter (thirteen years old when the main story opens) of the Muslim Emperor Shah Jahan and the Empress Mumtaz Mahal. Her father is a wise and enlightened leader, and is deeply devoted to her mother, who quite intelligently advises her husband in statecraft and has taught her daughter how to be independent. Her older brother Dara (heir to the throne) is a gentle scholar who believes in the worth of the Hindu scriptures and of the majority Hindu population; her younger brother Aurangzeb is only concerned with war and with avenging with extreme prejudice any perceived slights to himself or to Islam.
After becoming married off to a man who treats her badly, Jahanara’s mother dies in childbirth. Her father decides to have a magnificent marble tomb made for his wife, and sends for the architect Ustad Isa Shirazi to design and build the edifice, with his daughter as the royal overseer of the project. Meanwhile her younger brother continues to position himself to eventually take over the throne.
Several liberties have been taken with history in this book (Jahanara is important enough to have her own Wikipedia entry), but this novel is a powerful exploration of love versus hate. And I look forward to discussing this book at my Third Tuesday Bookclub meeting.
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