Mistress Of The Throne Book Review

On my recent trip to Rajasthan, while seeing all the forts and palaces, I couldn’t help imagining what kind of lavish life the women in the royal harem (zanana) would have been living. Opulent clothes, glittering jewels, maids and chaperones to cater to their every need. And yet, it was nothing more than a gilded prison with no freedom to go where they pleased, to do as they wished. The king too, would visit them occassionally and then chose whichever queen or concubine he wanted for the night. So, was their life really as envious as we imagine it to be?
The Mistress Of The Throne, a debut novel by Dr. Ruchir Gupta, gives us more than just a peek into the royal household of Emperor Shah Jahan through the eyes of his favourite daughter, Jahanara.

Jahanara. Honestly, I couldn’t remember much from history about this Mughal princess though I recollected that she was Shah Jahan’s daughter. This book is her narration of her life as a Mughal princess during one of the most “opulent and turbulent” period of Indian history.

The book tells the story of Jahanara from the time when she is the Begum Sahiba (Supreme Princess) and culminates with the passing away of Shah Jahan. The narrative of the book is very contemporary and compelling and the characters and events are extremely well researched. Agreed, this is a very well-documented period of history but to bind it all so well into a cohesive, flowing, descriptive narrative, is definitely a difficult task. I also loved the Sun and Moon analogy to explain the love between Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan and the reason why Delhi’s Chandni Chowk is thus named. You will understand what I’m talking about when you read the book.

The character of Jahanara is very well sketched out and she comes across as an emotional, yet level headed and positive person. Her close bond with her mother, her emotional angst when her mother dies, her relationship with her siblings and her struggles and sacrifices for the “larger good” while carrying out the responsibilities of the Queen of India make her endearing to us.

Ruchir Gupta, the author has also given a bit of “fictional” background that gives a possible explanation for Aurangzeb’s fanaticism and Dara’s mysticism. He has written it so well, that the reader feels convinced that this is what must have actually happened. And perhaps, some of it did happen the way he has imagined it!

I truly loved reading this book. Yes, there were times when I found it lagging a bit or even a couple of discrepancies, but overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. If you like historical fiction or are fascinated by the Mughal era, you can’t afford to miss this book. If you liked The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (a book I love but haven’t yet reviewed)  then you must read Mistress Of The Throne.

6 Replies to “Mistress Of The Throne Book Review”

  1. Nice Review! I’ve taken the liberty to link your review to my blog post. You can check it @ http://pagesfromserendipity.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/mistress-of-the-throne-by-ruchir-gupta-book-review/

    Hope it is fine.

  2. It’s a nice book. Hope you like it 🙂

  3. Rashi Ravi Ganguly says: Reply

    Hi Dollie! Palace of Illusions is one of my favourite re-imaginings of the Mahabharat too! Have you read Yagnaseni by Pratibha Ray? A very interesting book too, moved me deeply with some of its observations.
    I haven’t yet read any historical fiction about the Mughal era, this looks promising. Might pick it up 🙂

  4. Richa Saxena says: Reply

    Sounds like a really interesting read! Will add it to my list… 🙂

  5. How fascinating the books, sounds. Glad to hear about the book. will look for it 🙂

  6. It’s a debut book by a new author. You’ll like it.

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