‘The Feast of Roses’ by Indu Sundaresan
The days could be really hectic, your back might be breaking and your eyes get that vacant, hollow look, but you still breathe. In my case, I still read. Women dominate this week, finished two, third one on the verge of getting done. So, let me start from the enigmatic, some say manipulative, beautiful Mughal queen, Mehrunnisa, better known to the world as Empress Nur Jahan.
This is the second of a Trilogy, the first one traced the story of Mehrunnisa from her birth, through how she is smitten by Prince Jahangir, then gets married off to a soldier and ultimately how the dream of her life comes true when after being a widow and the mother of a child, she becomes ‘The Twentieth Wife’.
‘The Feast of Roses’ takes off from where the first become ended, Mehrunnisa is now the undoubted favorite of Emperor Jehangir and now she wants absolute control over the zenana and eventually the Mughal Empire as well. People are left wondering how a 34 year old mother of a child can so enrapture the Emperor to an extent that she is given an almost equal footing over the court proceedings, where no woman has ventured out before her. The author has beautifully explained it through her story.
The angst of a mother and the haughtiness of an Empress, her undying hunger for absolute power at any cost and her determination to destroy whatever stands in her way, even her daughter’s happiness is so well brought out in words. The details of the palaces, the costumes and the riches paint a very vivid picture, at places you feel as though you are watching a colorful period movie. The strength of love between the Emperor and his beloved is so strong that he is even willing to bear the ridicule of his courtiers. But then, it is this same Emperors son who built the most famous tribute to love, the Taj Mahal.
As in its prequel, Indu Sundaresan has caught the thoughts, emotions, mind and soul of her characters in its essence and portrayed them brilliantly. This is the story of a woman who fought against all odds , through sheer will power. She comes across as manipulative and ruthless in many places, but then to reign supreme in a harem of eight hundred odd wives and concubines, one has to be and act far above ordinary. I loved the book for its language, detailing and the characterization. I learned more about Mughal history from these books than in my school history class.
Verdict : A must read if you love historical fiction / romance. Or, read it if you just like good stories, forget the history part.