Friday, December 11, 2009

Beneath a Marble Sky

Beneath a Marble Sky Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

Book 48 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 15 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2004)
Award: Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My husband has just spent the last two weeks in India. (He gets home tonight! Yay!) It just so happened that my in-person book club chose to read a historical fiction book set in India this month, so it was great for me to immerse myself for a little while into the culture where my husband has been working.

Beneath a Marble Sky details the lives of the royal family during the building of the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. While John Shors does admittedly take liberties with the historical accuracy of the characters, he does bring this part of history to life in a compelling way.

The novel is told from Jahanara's perspective, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, as she recounts her life's story to her (fictional) granddaughters. Even at a young age, there is obvious tension between Jahanara's two brothers, Dara and Aurangzeb. Dara is the heir apparent, but Aurangzeb has a ruthless spirit who will stop at nothing to become the next emperor. Jahanara has an obvious affection for Dara which puts her at risk should Aurangzeb succeed.

When Jahanara is a young woman, her mother dies giving birth to her 14th child. Shah Jahan commissions the building of the Taj Mahal to honor Mumtaz Mahal and Jahanara falls in love with the architect. However, theirs is a forbidden love because she is already married from an arranged marriage to a despicable noble. Political intrigue surrrounding Jahanara's brothers affect the course of Jahanara's life and love to a satisfying conclusion for her, but not necessarily for all the characters involved.

I found this to be a good love story and I even shed a few tears at the end. There is quite a bit of violence in the book which is commensurate with the actual history, but some of it was hard for me to get through. I did learn a lot about what life might have been like in the harem and about relations between Hindus and Muslims during this time period. I found this book to be very enjoyable and should make for a good discussion next week!

Read the first chapter at John Shors website here.

Source: Library

5 comments:

Shona said...

Sounds like a book I would love reading .. Nice review.

History was one of my fav subject in school and I recently visited Taj Mahal so all the more reasons to read it :)

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Glad you liked this. I bought his, "Beside a Burning Sea" several months ago. I hope it's as good this one.

He has a new one out too!

bermudaonion said...

I've been hearing a lot about John Shors work lately - I need to give one of his books a try.

Toni said...

I've gotten a bit squirmish with voilence,but still I have heard too many good things about this one to pass up. Thanks for the review.

Anna said...

I've heard a lot of good things about John Shors' books. I'll keep this one in mind.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric