Sunday, April 1, 2007

Beautiful Story about the Building of a Wonder

Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors (324 pgs) was written in 2004. It is my 2000 read for the Decades Challenge. What a wonderful book it was too!!

As the tale begins, a woman has gathered her two granddaughters together to tell them a story. It is the story of their family history, the truth of which has been hidden from them since the day they were born. For their grandmother was not just the daughter of a simple fisherman. No. She was actually born into the Royal family. Her real name is Princess Jahanara, and her father was the Emperor Shah Jahan. And this is her story.

Princess Jahanara was the eldest daughter of the Emperor. And she was very close to him and his wife. In fact, she was just like her mother -- beautiful, intelligent and compassionate. She wanted nothing more than to know love like her parents shared. But she knew her duty was to the empire and did as she was told. When her mother died during childbirth, the Emperor was inconsolable. The grief he felt for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, led the Emperor to dream of the afterlife with her at his side. He wanted to create a monument dedicated to his wife. And so began the construction of the Taj Mahal.

But this story is not only about the Taj Mahal, but it is about the love that inspired it. And it is also about the rivalry between brothers and a sister. A rivalry that would tear this empire apart. Dara, the eldest brother and heir to the throne, was a man of compassion. He studied many religions and hoped to unite the Muslims and the Hindus together. He was smart and studious and philosophical. The younger brother, Aurangzeb, was a soldier. He was a cold, zealous killer and he was hungry to gain control of the throne for himself.

This book is a wild ride. Shors does a phenomenal job of not only bringing out the most beautiful of love stories, but also the bloodiest of wars, pitting brother against brother. He certainly has a knack for storytelling! Although this account is fictional, there is enough historical fact for the reader to gain some insight into 17th Century politics and the intricacies of Muslin/Hindu relations. The language is lilting and beautiful and it is a story that I highly recommend to both fans of history AND historical fiction. Wonderful!! 4.5/5


Chris said...

Sounds good! I'll have to put it on my ever growing list.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Me, too. I've added this book to my TBR mountain.

Andi said...

This is one of those books with such a great title that nothing else really matters! :D

Backcountry Muse said...

Nice review, Stephanie. I've been noodling around with the idea of tossing this one onto Mt TBR for some time. Looks like I'm just going to have to give in.

Lotus Reads said...

I agree, Stephanie, this is a lovely read and I love how the author captures Princess Jahanara's voice...I'm sure as a middle-aged man it was no easy task.

Makes me want to rush to see the wonderful Taj Mahal! To think it was in my backyard all these years (ok, I exaggerate a little) but Agra wasn't too far from where I lived and yet I have never seen the Taj.

You can read my review, if interested:

Teddy said...

Wow, this book sounds like a must read for me. What a well written review!


Colleen Gleason said...

I have got to read this book. I think the Taj Mahal is the most perfect building ever designed and built.

Thanks for a great review. (And for stopping by my blog!)

Colleen Gleason

Zeek said...

I loved this one too! Couldn't believe a man did such a good job of writing from a woman's pov. Sexist of me I know, but there you have it!

Aarti said...

I really liked this one, too! It was beautifully written. Recently, there's been talk about the building of the Taj Mahal and whether it really *was* built by Shah Jahan as a monument to his wife... but I like this version best :-)

Josette said...

Hey there, I've been wanting to comment on this post since yesterday morning!

Your review of this book make it sound like a good one! I've joined a book group and they were reading this book, even the author was invited to discuss the book. Too bad I haven't read it yet. But it must be a good book. I love stories that have to do with historical stuff!

All in all, good review. And I linked you up in my new blog.