The Lady of The Rivers – Philippa Gregory

Lady of the RiversTitle : The Lady of The Rivers

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  1416563717

ISBN-13 : 978-1416563716

Paperback : 480 pages

The Plot :

When the young and beautiful Jacquetta is married to the older Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta has visions of the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. Jacquetta fights for her king and queen, as she sees an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the white rose of York, and the throne of England…

Review :

After finishing the entire Tudor Court series by Philippa Gregory, I had very high expectations for this book, which is the first in the Cousins’ War series. In short it not just lived up but has been a really exciting read.

Philippa Gregory manages to weave in court intrigue, with history and amazing imagery from the 15th century beautifully, in this story about Jacquetta of Luxembourg. The choice of her as the protagonist is so interesting, since there isn’t too much information available about her. The book throws light on the perceptions of magic and witchcraft

Looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Lady-Rivers-Novel-Cousins%C2%92/dp/1416563717

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

Find Out More About the Show : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2372220/

The Legend of Sheba – Tosca Lee

The Legend of ShebaTitle : The Legend of Sheba

Author : Tosca Lee

ISBN-10 :  1451684045

ISBN-13 : 978-1451684049

Paperback : 336 pages

The Plot :

Her name is legend. Her story the epic of nations. The queen of Sheba.

Here is a tale that is told. A desert queen journeyed north with a caravan of riches to pay tribute to a king and his one God.

The story of a queen conquered by a king before she returned to her home land laden with gifts.

This is the tale you are meant to believe.

Which means most of it is a lie.

The truth is far more than even the storytellers could conjure. The riches more priceless. The secrets more corrosive. The love and betrayal more passionate and devastating.

Across the Red Sea, the pillars of the great oval temple once bore my name: Bilqis, Daughter of the Moon. Here, to the west, the porticoes knew another: Makeda, Woman of Fire. To the Israelites, I was queen of the spice lands, which they called Sheba.

Review :

Knowing shockingly little about Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, myself I loved the details and history in this book. Tosca Lee has managed to convey a lot of history in a few pages. The rich setting and the beauty of Bilqis is conveyed so well it is almost palpable. The amout of research involved definitely shows, especially since there isn’t much information available freely about the Queen of Sheeba.

It is well written and the story is intriguing. A little slow for my tastes but definitely worth a read.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Legend-Sheba-Rise-Queen/dp/1451684045

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.toscalee.com/

The Other Queen – Philippa Gregory

The Other QueenTitle : The Other Queen

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  1416549129

ISBN-13 : 978-1416549123

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

Fleeing violent rebellions in Scotland, Mary looks to Queen Elizabeth of England for sanctuary. Though promised protection, Mary, perceived as a serious threat to the English crown, is soon imprisoned by her former friend as a “guest” in the house of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. The newly married couple welcomes the condemned queen into their home certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court.

To their horror, they grow to realize that the task will bankrupt their estate and lose them what little favour they’ve managed to gain as their home becomes the epicentre of intrigue and rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. And Mary is not as hopeless as she appears, manipulating the earl and spinning her own web of treachery and deceit, as she sharpens her weapons to reclaim her Scottish throne—and to take over Queen Elizabeth’s of England.

Review :

Told from the alternating perspectives of Mary Queen of Scots, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, this is sixth and last book in the Tudor Court Series by Philippa Gregory. Like the other books in the series, this one is beautifully written, giving a rare glimpse into the Elizabethan court.

The characters are mesmerizing and the plots are rich. What I loved about this book was the three different perspectives of looking at the same incident. The author beautifully juxtaposes the different ways of looking at a situation that is tainted by loyalties and personal gain. A definite must read. It leaves you craving for more.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Other-Queen-Philippa-Gregory/dp/1442304731

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

The Tudor Rose – Margaret Campbell Barnes

The Tudor RoseTitle : The Tudor Rose

Author : Margaret Campbell Barnes

ISBN-10 :  1402224680

ISBN-13 : 978-1402224683

Paperback : 336 pages

The Plot :

Her choices will decide the fate of a kingdom.

The untimely death of King Edward IV throws England into a tempest of treachery. Elizabeth of York, the king’s oldest daughter, watches helplessly as her uncle Richard imprisons her two brothers – the would-be kings- in the Tower, never to be seen again. The mystery of what happened to the two princes rattles England, and King Richard III knows that the best claim to the throne lies with Elizabeth. Faced with the prospect of marrying a murderer, Elizabeth clings to the hope that exiled knight Henry Tudor can force a battle, avenge her brothers, and win her hand – and her kingdom.

The marriage of Henry and Elizabeth brings together the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York, producing a thornless Tudor rose. But the prospect that one of the doomed princes still lives haunts their lives, casting doubt on Henry VII’s crown. Elizabeth is torn between the ghost of a brother she can’t forget and the son whose reign will change the face of England.

Review :

Beautifully written, The Tudor Rose tells the story of Elizabeth of York, a strong Queen who birthed a dynasty and forever changed the face of England.

What I loved about the book is the characterization of Elizabeth of York. Despite being the only legitimate heir to the throne, Elizabeth has little power, for England is not ready to crown a woman as their monarch. Constantly fighting plots against her family by other member of her family, she brings together the Lancaster and the York roses and ends the feud between the cousins constantly fighting each other. She holds on to her hope that her brothers are still alive yet she knows that if they are alive it would mean her husband and sons’ claim to the throne would be lost. The quandary that she faces is beautifully described. A definite must read for any historical fiction lover.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Tudor-Rose-Kingdom-Birthed/dp/1402224680

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/margaret-campbell-barnes

The Virgin’s Lover – Philippa Gregory

TVLTitle : The Virgin’s Lover

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  0743256158

ISBN-13 : 978-0743256155

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

From the author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen’s Fool comes a stunning portrait of the first perilous years of Elizabeth I’s reign.

As a new queen, Elizabeth faces two great dangers: the French invasion of Scotland, which threatens to put Mary Queen of Scots on her throne, and her passion for the convicted traitor Robert Dudley. But Dudley is already married, and his devoted wife Amy will never give him up, but she cannot prevent him from becoming the favourite and the focus of the feverish plotting, pleasure-seeking court.

Blending historical fact with contemporary rumour, Philippa Gregory has created a dark and tense novel of Tudor times which casts Elizabeth I in a light that no-one has suggested before. Passionate, fearful, emotionally needy, this is a queen who will stop at nothing.

Review :

The fifth book in the Tudor court series, The Virgin’s Lover sheds a very different light on Elizabeth I. Personally when I think of Elizabeth I, I think of a confident queen who has decided never to marry and rules a kingdom alone. Her reign is known as the golden age. But here, Philippa Gregory shows you the other side of her. She shows her as a young regent who has just inherited the throne and the crown is shaky on her head. It shows her insecurities and fears, her wants and needs.

As beautifully written as any of her previous books in this series, The Virgin’s Lover is mesmerizing and action packed. It gives a beautiful look into a long gone era. A definite must read for any fan of historical fiction.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Virgins-Lover-Boleyn-Philippa-Gregory/dp/0743256158/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-16&qid=1429060982

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

The Queen’s Fool – Philippa Gregory

The Queen's FoolTitle : The Queen’s Fool

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  0743246071

ISBN-13 : 978-0743246071

Paperback : 512 pages

The Plot :

A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith and unrequited love.

It is winter 1533. Pursued by the Spanish Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee London with her father. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward’s protector, who brings her to court as a “holy fool” for the Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own desired.

The Queen’s Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller.

Review :

This is the fourth book in the Tudor Court Series by Philippa Gregory. From the first page onward, it is full of suspense and intrigue. I believe this is really a very difficult feat to achieve in Historical fiction especially when the story is so well known and has been told repeatedly. Philippa Gregory add her own characters to the court of King Edward, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and makes this book so thoroughly interesting. I devoured this book as quickly as I possibly could. The story is so amazingly told and the pace is so beautiful, I almost wanted to quit my job just so that I could do nothing but read this book in one session. Very highly recommended especially to historical fiction fans!! Can’t wait to start the next book in the series!

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Queens-Fool-Novel-Boleyn/dp/0743246071

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

The Boleyn Inheritance – Philippa Gregory

The Boleyn InheritanceTitle : The Boleyn Inheritance

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  1439124671

ISBN-13 : 978-1439124673

Paperback : 592 pages

The Plot :

In this story about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror, a vanished world is brought to life – the whisper of a skirt on a stone stair, the glow of a candle lighting a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower green below the scaffold.

Anne of Cleves’s Boleyn Inheritance is accusations and false witnesses. Katherine Howard’s Boleyn Inheritance is the threat of the axe. Jane Rochford’s Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune, a title, in exchange for her soul.

Review :

Told from the alternating perspectives of Anne of Cleves, Kathrine Howard and Jane Rochford, The Boleyn Inheritance is the third book in the Tudor court series (chronologically). Anne of Cleves was King Henry VIII’s fourth wife and Kathrine Howard his sixth wife while Jane Rochford was the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife.

Anne of Cleves comes to England as his fourth wife, married for political reasons but he detests her for she is ugly. He agrees to marry her without seeing her in person but when he sees her he is determined to set her aside for a younger, prettier Kathrine Howard. Jane Rochford is known to have provided incriminating evidence against Anne Boleyn, leading to her beheading.

What I loved about the book is its break neck pace and the beauty with which the author has shown the constant terror that everyone is in while in King Henry VIII’s court. He was known to have become unstable and tyrannical during this stage of his life, plagued by illness and fear of growing old as well as fears of plots to overthrow his rule of England. Anne of Cleves is such a strong character, who manages to escape one tyrant (her brother) just to come to become the wife of another. Kathrine Howard is just a silly girl with silly dreams and wishes who is thrust into the role of Queen of England, when she is clearly not in a position to handle its responsibilities. And Jane Rochford is dealing with her grief and guilt in the role she has played in Henry’s court but working furiously to maintain her position and inheritance.

I have loved all the books in this series so far and looking forward to reading the next book eagerly. Overall highly recommended read for anyone who loves historic fiction and is obsessed with the Tudors as much as I am.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Boleyn-Inheritance-Novel-Philippa-Gregory/dp/074327251X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1419385272

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory

The other Boleyn GirlTitle : The Other Boleyn Girl

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  0743227441

ISBN-13 : 978-0743227445

Paperback : 672 pages

The Plot :

Mary Boleyn catches the eye of Henry VIII when she comes to court as a girl of fourteen. Dazzled by the golden prince, Mary’s joy is cut short when she discovers that she is a pawn in the dynastic plots of her family. When the capricious king’s interest wanes, Mary is ordered to pass on her knowledge of how to please him to her friend and rival: her sister, Anne.

Anne soon becomes irresistible to Henry, and Mary can do nothing but watch her sister’s rise. Anne stops at nothing to achieve her own ambition. From now on, Mary will be no more than the other Boleyn girl. But beyond the court is a man who dares to challenge the power of her family to offer Mary a life of freedom and passion. If only she has the courage to break away – before the Boleyn enemies turn on the Boleyn girls…

Review :

Told in the voice of Mary Boleyn, this is the second book in the Tudor Court series by Philippa Gregory. The story of Anne Boleyn has been told many times but never like this. I loved the love-hate relationship and the rivalry that is shown in the book between the Boleyn sisters. I loved the fact how the author starts with Anne Boleyn being the other Boleyn girl, in the shadow of Mary Boleyn, but slowly as the books progresses you see her emerge as the more famous Boleyn.

The plotting of the Howard/Boleyn family to get to the top in King Henry VIII’s court is shown beautifully. Queen Kathrine is shown in a different light as compared to the first book in the series since this is told from Mary’s perspective, but she stills maintains her Queenly aura in this as well. This adds to the layered narration of the story.

All in all I highly recommend this book and the whole series for all historic fiction fans. I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book from the characterization to the plots to the grandeur of the court and palaces as described in this book. A definite must read!

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Other-Boleyn-Girl-Philippa-Gregory/dp/0743227441/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419385272&sr=1-3&keywords=the+boleyn+inheritance

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

Find Out More About the Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467200/

The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory

The_Constant_PrincessTitle : The Constant Princess

Author : Philippa Gregory

ISBN-10 :  0743272498

ISBN-13 : 978-0743272490

Paperback : 393 pages

The Plot :

Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story.

Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far off, wet, cold land. But Arthur seems little more than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be Queen and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong…

Review :

I have always been intrigued by the Tudors and was looking for a book/series on them. This book, the first (chronologically) in a series by Philippa Gregory was exactly what I was looking for. The story is so very interesting and the writing is amazing.

The character of Katherine is so strong and follows her dream with dogged persistence. Despite the many tough years of mistreatment and uncertainty she goes through, she is determined to become the Queen of England. I loved every chapter and my favourite has to be the end. The details of how she plans to run the country and go to war while distracting her husband’s attention is written beautifully. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historic fiction. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.

Links :

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Constant-Princess-Boleyn-Philippa-Gregory/dp/0743272498

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.philippagregory.com/

Shadow Princess – Indu Sundaresan

Shadow PrincessTitle : Shadow Princess

Author : Indu Sundaresan

ISBN-10: 1416548793

ISBN-13 : 978-1416548799

Paperback : 352 pages

The Plot :

Critically acclaimed author Indu Sundaresan picks up where she left off in The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, returning to seventeenth-century India as two princesses struggle for supremacy of their father’s kingdom.

Trapped in the shadow of the magnificent tomb their grief-stricken father is building for his beloved deceased wife, the emperor’s daughters compete for everything: control over the imperial harem, their father’s affection, and the future of their country. They are forbidden to marry and instead choose to back different brothers in the fight for ultimate power over the throne. But only one of the sisters will succeed. With an enthusiasm for history and a flair for rich detail, Indu Sundaresan brings readers deep into the complicated lives of Indian women of the time period and highlights the profound history of one of the most celebrated works of architecture in the world, the Taj Mahal.

Review:

I have loved the first two books in this series and this one is no different. Indu Sundaresan is once again successful in transporting the readers to a time centuries ago. Having visited most of the places mentioned in the book, it truly does make for an amazing read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Mughal dynasty and the monuments they built during their reign in India. Tying in interesting facts with a beautiful story this is by far one of the best books I have read about the Taj Mahal.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Princess-Novel-Indu-Sundaresan/dp/B0057D9C2C

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.indusundaresan.com/

The Heretic Queen – Michelle Moran

The Heretic QueenTitle : The Heretic Queen

Author : Michelle Moran

ISBN-10: 0307381765

ISBN-13 : 978-0307381767

Paperback : 416 Pages

The Plot :

In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family’s past and remake history.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

Once again Michelle Moran manages to engage the readers in a beautiful world set centuries ago. The plot is gripping and the characters are relatable even though they are long gone. The descriptions of the palaces and the lives the Pharaohs led, in itself make this book a compelling read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone with a fancy for historic fiction.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Heretic-Queen-Misfortune-Pharaohs/dp/0307381765

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.michellemoran.com/index.html

Nefertiti – Michelle Moran

ImageTitle : Nefertiti

Author : Michelle Moran

ISBN-10: 0307381749

ISBN-13 : 978-0307381743

Paperback : 496 pages

The Plot :

Nefertiti: A Novel by Michelle Moran is the tale of one of history’s most fascinating Egyptian Queens, told from the perspective of her sister Mutnodjmet. While Nefertiti is the beautiful and ambitious sister, Mutnodjmet is the plain looking sister with the superior understanding of court politics. While one wants to rule over all of Egypt, the other is happy to spend the rest of her life in her herb garden.

Although the two sisters are part of the royal family they are brought up far from the court. Their father Ay, is a Vizier at the court of the current Pharaoh of Egypt and his sister, Tiye, is the Queen. Nefertiti is chosen by her aunt to be married to prince Amenhotep, who is the heir to the throne of Egypt. This is where the story begins.

The prince is known to be impetuous and hot headed. He is overly ambitious and has outrageous plans to overthrow the current gods of Amun, erect temples and shrines to a new god called Aten, create a new capital for Egypt and make a mark in history for himself. Queen Tiye and her brother Ay, are convinced that Nefertiti will be able to control the prince once he is Pharaoh. Instead, she encourages Amunhotep’s outrageous plans, to further her own ambitions of remaining the new Kings chief wife, winning the adoration of the people while making powerful enemies at court.  

Mutnodjmet is the only one that Nefertiti can truly rely on. She is the only one who has Nefertiti’s ear, yet not always. As King Amunhotep’s commands become more extravagant, he and Nefertiti make enemies of the army, clergy, and Egypt’s most powerful allies. All the while Mutnodjmet is at the beck and call of Nefertiti and slowly starts to resent her position in the court. She longs to have a life away from the royal court in her gardens. Then, when Mutnodjmet begins a dangerous affair with a general, she sees how tenuous her situation is at her own sister’s court.

Filled with intrigue and drama all set in the royal court of Egypt, the book is a must read for any fan of historic fiction. It is very fast paced and the characters are very relatable even though they are set in a time centuries ago. It brings to life the reign on Amunhotep and Nefertiti in the most fantastic way. The court intrigues and tensions are almost palpable. Overall it makes for an action packed and gripping read. I loved every last word of it and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series named ‘The Heretic Queen’.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Nefertiti-A-Novel-Michelle-Moran/dp/0307381749/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.michellemoran.com/index.html

 

The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

The ReaderTitle : The Reader

Author : Bernhard Schlink

ISBN-10: 9780375707971

ISBN-13 : 978-0375707971

Paperback : 218 pages

The Plot :

‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink is a story about the difficulties faced by the post-war generations of Germany with comprehending and dealing with the Holocaust. The book is written in three parts, each narrated by the main character Michael Berg.

The story begins in 1958, when Michael is a 15 year old boy living in Germany. One particular day has he is returning home after school he becomes ill outside the house of a 30 something year old lady named Hanna Schmitz. She finds him puking outside her house, helps him regain composure and walks him back home. He spends many months after that incident battling hepatitis and recuperating at home. Soon he visits Hanna to thank her for all her help and finds himself drawn to her. She catches him looking at her get dressed and he runs away in embarrassment, only to return a couple of days later. She seduces him and he returns regularly to her apartment where they begin a heated affair.

During their afternoon trysts, they develop a ritual, where Michael reads aloud to her, from the books he has been reading for School. He reads to her in multiple languages and books from classical literature. Michael wants to get close to Hanna emotionally as well but she keeps him at a distance. He realizes that he is falling in love with her and puts up with verbal and sometimes physical abuse from her. He takes a trip with her and brings her to his house when his parents are away to try and include her in his life but she chooses to maintain a distance.

Slowly Michaels begins to realise that he longs to hang out with his friends from school more than his desire to spend time with Hanna. He feels guilty about it but none the less, starts spending more time with his classmates and reduces his time with Hanna. Months later, one day he finds that Hanna has left suddenly and without a trace. He blames himself and is convinced that her departure had something to do with his changing behaviour toward her.

Part two of the book moves ahead to a time when Michael is a student at Law School, where he is part of a group of students who are observing a ‘war crimes’ trial. The trial involves a group of women who served as SS guards at Auschwitz. They are being tried for allowing 300 plus Jewish women under their command to burn alive while being trapped in a burning church. One of the women accused is Hanna and Michael recognises her immediately.

He feels guilty for having loved a remorseless criminal and at the same time is mystified at Hanna’s willingness to accept full responsibility for supervising the other guards despite evidence proving otherwise. She is accused of writing the account of the fire. At first she denies this, but then in panic admits it in order to not have to give a sample of her handwriting. Michael, horrified, realizes that Hanna has a secret she refuses to reveal at any cost—she is illiterate.

During the trial, it transpires that she took in the weak, sickly women and had them read to her before they were sent to the gas chambers. Michael decides she wanted to make their last days bearable; or did she send them to their death so they would not reveal her secret? She is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After much deliberation, he chooses not to reveal her secret.

Years later we see that Michael is still trying to come to terms with his feelings for Hanna, and begins taping readings of books and sending them to her without any correspondence while she is in prison. Years have passed, Michael is divorced and has a daughter from his brief marriage. Hanna begins to teach herself to read, and then write, by borrowing the books from the prison library and following the tapes along in the text. She writes to Michael, but he cannot bring himself to reply. After 18 years, Hanna is about to be released, so he agrees after much hesitation to find her a place to stay and employment, visiting her in prison. But Hanna has different plans in mind.

Beautifully written, this book has become one of my favourites. The story is sad and introspective in nature, but makes for an amazing read. My favourite thing about the book is how the character of Hanna is portrayed so beautifully. She is shown as so strong and independent yet with a weakness and totally dependent on people. Overall I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Reader-Oprahs-Book-Club/dp/0375707972

Find Out More About the Author : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_Schlink

Find Out More About the Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0976051/

 

The Mountain Of Light – Indu Sundaresan

Mountain of Light-CoverTitle : The Mountain Of Light

Author : Indu Sundaresan

ISBN-10: 1451643519

ISBN-13 : 978-1451643510

Paperback : 352 pages

The Plot :

In her new book ‘The Mountain Of Light’, author Indu Sundaresan takes us through a journey following the Kohinoor diamond across continents. It is work of historic fiction all about the 186 carat diamond and how it changed hands. The word Koh-i-Noor, coined by the Persian king Babur, means ‘The Mountain Of Light’ and that is how the book gets its title.

For those who are unaware, the Kohinoor diamond is now a 106 carat diamond, and held the title of the world’s largest diamond for many years.  The first recorded mention of the diamond can be found in the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Babur, who received it from a Hindu ruler he had defeated. After the Mughals, it slipped out of India and was with Nadir Shah for a while.  Later it was held by King of Afghanistan Shah Shuja and subsequently by Maharajah Ranjit Singh of the Punjab Empire.   Finally it landed in England to be presented to Queen Victoria. Currently in possession of Queen Elizabeth of England, the Kohinoor diamond is displayed at the Tower of England in London. It has travelled through time and around the world, changing hands from one ruler to another in Persia, Afghanistan, India and England for centuries.

The book starts in 1871, in the beautiful Shalimar Gardens of the mansion of Punjab’s Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Here, the Afghan king Shah Shuja and his wife Wafa Begum are held captive after having lost their throne and taking refuge in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. They, Wafa Begum specifically, are in possession of the opulent diamond. They had promised the Maharaja that they would hand over the diamond to him if he helped them escape and win back the Afghan throne. After having successfully escaped from Afghanistan, Shah Suja and Wafa Begum refuse to give up the Diamond to Ranjit Singh as they are sure that once they hand over the diamond to Ranjit Singh, he will surely execute them as he would have nothing further to gain from them. They hold on to the diamond as the only ray of hope for their survival.

After years of keeping them captive in hopes of owning the Koh-i-Noor Magaraja Ranjit Singh of the Punjab finally realises that he needs to take more drastic measures if he wants to get hold of the diamond. He cuts off their food and water supply and starves them. Eventually they yield and hand over the diamond to the Maharaja. As soon as he is in possession of the Diamond he sets Shah Shuja and Wafa Begum free.

The story then leaps many years, to when Maharaja Ranjit Singh, still in possession of the Koh-i-Noor, is now old and weary. The British have made their entry into India under the name of the East India Company and have hopes to annex India from the control of Ranjit Singh and have their sovereign, Queen Victoria, rule over the vast empire. After his death, four of his sons kill each other in wars to take control of the mighty empire. His only remaining heir is the six year old prince Dalip Singh. With the help of his mother Jindan Kaur and her staff they manage to put him on the throne as the Emperor of the Punjab Empire.

In the meanwhile the British sign a treaty with Dalip Singh and his court, to help protect his position as regent of the Punjab Empire, in hopes that they will be able to slowly gain control and push him out of power. They start to take account of all the wealth in the Toshakhana of the king and start compiling lists of items of value that will soon belong to the Treasury of the East India Company. During this process, the East India Company and the British manage to take possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Soon Lord Dalhousie, comes to India as the Governor General and he plans to present the Koh-i-Noor to his sovereign, Queen Victoria, as a gift from India.  Under the utmost secrecy, two high ranking British officers plan to take the Diamond to England on board the SS Indus. On the way to England, the diamond is stolen and later found.

The story ends many years later where we see Dalip Singh is old and settled in Paris and  he shares his diaries with his daughter that he maintained from when he was sixteen and came to England. In his diaries he talks about how much his life changed since he left Lahore and how he longed to possess the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Overall the book is an amazing read that transports the reader into a totally different world. The book reflects the opulence of Indian Kings, life in their zenanas, the entry of the British into India, life in England and the majestic scenes in Queen Victoria’s palaces. It documents how the Koh-i-Noor travelled from country to country, King to King, empire to empire and finally settling down in the hands of the British monarchs, where it still lies today, captive in the Tower of London.

The book conveys wonderfully how the urge to own this diamond was so overwhelming that even the dreadful curse supposedly carried by it was conveniently overlooked. Indu Sundaresan uses beautiful imagery to show a glimpse of the life led by the kings in Punjab and the beauty of the Koh-i-Noor. The amount of research that must have gone into writing this beautiful book is truly mind boggling. After reading ‘The Mountain Of Light’ I am filled with the desire to see the Koh-i-Noor once again, and look into its facets and try and see the history it has left behind. A definite must read for historic fiction lovers.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Mountain-Light-A-Novel/dp/1451643519

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.indusundaresan.com/

Find Out More About the Koh-i-Noor : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koh-i-Noor & http://www.kohinoordiamond.org/index.html

Empire Of The Moghul: Raiders From The North – Alex Rutherford

ImageTitle : Empire Of The Moghul – Raiders From The North

Author : Alex Rutherford

ISBN-10 : 0312573227

ISBN-13 : 978-0312573225

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

This is the first book in the ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series by Alex Rutherford. The entire series has five books until now (2013) and deals with the Mughal Empire. The Mughals were one of the most opulent and powerful dynasties in the world and the central theme of the books revolve around the rise and fall of this dynasty,

‘Raiders from the North’ talks about the life of Babur, who is considered the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty. He is the descendent of Timur the Lame (Tamburlaine) and ruler of Ferghana in central Asia. From a very young age, when he inherited the throne, he had to fight to maintain his rule over his kingdom. The book starts in 1494 when at the age of 12, Babur inherits the throne, after the death of his father. He is determined to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors to make them the greatest dynasty that every ruled and be great like them.

The main characters of the book are his family and ministers including his mother Kutlugh Nigar, Grandmother Esan Dawlat, sister Khanzada and son Humayun, Shaibani Khan of the Uzbeks and Shah Ismail of Persia. Babur’s military commander Wazir Khan, adviser Baisanghar and friend Baburi are based on historical figures. With their help he is able to get hold of the throne and continue to rule after his father.

He is ambitious and has dreams to expand his kingdom to match that of his ancestors. As soon as he inherits the thrown he is subject to vicious plots and by some of his ministers and family to usurp the throne. Simultaneously the neighbouring king of the Uzbeks, Shaibani Khan and King of Persia, Shah Ismail plan to invade his kingdom. In order to be able to survive and rule his kingdom, Babur develops his cunning and military skills.

As a young king lacking skills to rule the empire he gets ousted from his own kingdom loosing Samarkhand that belonged to his ancestors and Ferghana where he ruled. He goes to Kabul where he starts to rule and slowly plans to regain his old territories along with new lands.  

Based on his autobiography, the ‘Baburnama’, this work of historic fiction makes for an amazing read. It gives you an insight into the mind of a Mughal emperor along with scenes of decadence and frivolity used to the emperor. It also takes you through the military stratagems and battles that helped establish the basis of the glorious Mughal dynasty. All in all, it is a great book which stays true to facts, takes you practically into those days as the story unfolds and leads you through Ferghana, onto Samarkand – then Kabul and finally Hindustan. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and highly recommend it. I can hardly wait to start the next in the series.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Raiders-North-Empire-Alex-Rutherford/dp/0312573227/ref=tmm_pap_title_0/175-3758988-8186954

Find Out More About the Author :  http://empireofthemoghul.com/

The Palace Of Illusions – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

ImageTitle : The Palace Of Illusions

Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

ISBN-10 : 1400096200

ISBN-13 : 978-1400096206

Paperback : 384 pages

The Plot :

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is brings a very different perspective to the Indian epic Mahabharata. It is a narration of the epic from Draupadi/Paanchali’s point of view.

For those who are not aware, The Mahabharata, is a very important part of Indian Hindu mythology. It is the struggle for the throre of Hastinapura, in India that was ruled by the Kuru clan. The main characters are segregated into two families, The Pandavas (five brothers) and the Kauravas (one hundred brothers). At its core, The Mahabharata is a story of how good triumphs over evil even though the good may be outnumbered by the evil.

Draupadi also known as Paanchali is the wife of the Pandavas. Yes she is married to them all but not simultaneously. For a year she is wife to one brother and sister-in-law to the others and this continues year after year. In the Indian mythology the Pandavas are revered to as Gods and can do no wrong (although there are many mistakes they make as humans in the epic). This book gives a different perspective and treats them as humans with real flaws.

It starts with the birth of Draupadi, the fire child, princess of Paanchal and continues through her life. It talks about how she falls in love with one man and is forced to marry five others instead. You see her deal with everyday issues to things like trying to adjust being married to five men. She has her list of pros and cons of each husband and how they treat her and look at her so differently. It also shows you how she is one of the main reasons that The Mahabharata even occurred. It speaks of humanized characters, rather than the tragic, even if flawed, heroes of the original epic, whose travails the reader identifies with. 

It is interesting to read because in most other versions of the epic, old and new alike, the women are more of side characters, whereas in this book Draupadi is in the centre of the actions. It is based totally of historic facts from the epic with some welcome additions by the author. Yes we all know how it ends and we know the whole story before reading the book, but it is the narration and the modernized revision of the story that makes it a compelling read. It was such a beautifully narrated version of The Mahabharata that after the book ended it left me begging for more. I enjoyed every minute of the book and place it very high on my recommendations list.  

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1400096200

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/

For More About The Mahabharata : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata

The Feast Of Roses – Indu Sundaresan

feast of rosesTitle : The Feast Of Roses

Author : Indu Sunderesan

ISBN-10 : 0743456416

ISBN-13 : 978-0743456418

Paperback : 416 pages

The Plot :

The sequel to ‘The Twentieth Wife’, ‘The Feast of Roses’ by Indu Sunderesan is all about how Mehrunnnisa establishes herself as the most important wife of Jahangir. Set 1611, this books is the second in the Taj trilogy. At the end of the last book, Jahangir marries Mehrunnisa, making her his 20th wife. All his other marriages were for political reasons and only this, his latest, is for love.

Using his love as a tool at her disposal Mehrunnisa, given the title ‘Nur Jahan’ by Jahangir, culls out a place for herself in history as one of the most powerful empresses in the Mughal Empire. Over a seventeen year marriage, she becomes the Emperor in all but name of the vast Mughal Empire. Although hidden behind a veil and the walls of the Mughal harem of the king, Mehrunnisa assumes the powers of sovereignty that her husband willingly bestows on her.

She uses his deep and obsessive love fro her and immense trust that he places in her to gain the power to be able to mint coins in her name, issue farmaans ( imperial orders) and construct tombs and monuments that are considered some of the landmarks of the Mughal Dynasty in India. All this power was something she had to fight for.

This books talks about the means that she used to gain this power and position including using her daughter (from a previous marriage) as a pawn in her battle for power. From the very get go she has strong enemies like Empress Jagat Gosini (one of the other wives of Jaganhir) within the harem and ministers outside it. She deals with clever plots by them to destroy the kings affections for her and uses them to increase her position in the harem to the most important wife of the king.

In turn she forms an alliance of sorts with her father, brother and Prince Khurram (Jahangir’s son from another marriage). As the author describes it “Through it all, Mehrunnisa demonstrates strength of character and cunning to get what she wants. The woman who fretted about life’s absurdities, with few resources to change them in The Twentieth Wife, finds full expression to her character and personality in The Feast of Roses.”

All in all it is a wonderful book. Filled with political intrigue, schemes and plans and the resourcefulness of one woman, it makes for an excellent read. Like the previous book the descriptions and amazing and the language flows so smoothly. In a word Unputdownable.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Feast-Roses-A-Novel/dp/0743456416

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.indusundaresan.com/Default.aspx

The Twentieth Wife – Indu Sunderesan

twentieth wifeTitle : The Twentieth Wife

Author : Indu Sunderesan

ISBN-10: 0743428188

ISBN-13 : 978-0743428187

Paperback : 416 pages

The Plot :

Set in the 15th century Mughal empire, Indu Sunderesan’s ‘The Twentieth Wife’, is the story of the most powerful and influential empress of the Mughal dynasty. It tells us the story of Mehrunnisa later known as Empress Nur Jahan. The book is works for historic fiction, with a lot of its facts having a basis in reality.

The underlying theme of the book is how the women held a very real power in the Mughal Empire, from behind their veils. This is the first instalment of the Taj Trilogy. It starts with the birth of a girl in the dessert during a storm, whose parents had decided to give her up. Little did they know that in the coming years, she would become one of the most powerful empresses to ever rule the Mughal Empire.

Being raised in the vicinity of the Zenana (quarters of the royal women in the Mughal empire) most of her childhood, Mehrunnisa saw Prince Jahangir during his first wedding when she was just 8. At that age she had decided in her mind that someday she would marry him. And as history would have it, she did marry him, becoming his twentieth and last wife.

The books takes you through Mehrunnisa’s life, her childhood years in the Zenana, interactions with the then empress Ruqayya Begam, her first marriage to a soldier in the Mughal Army, competing with Empress Jagat Gosini and other trials that kept her from the love of her life, Jhangir. With steady determination she managed to get the attention of Jhangir over his harem of wives and hundreds of concubines and established herself as the Empress, the most important of his wives.

From page one the books is engrossing. It is not just the characters but also the time and the places that are discussed in the book that drew me to it. Although you know the end, it is the journey of Mehrunnisa’s life that is so intriguing. Sunderesan’s writing is mesmerising and describes beautiful scenes in the book with a language that makes the reader feel they are standing in midst of the intricately described bazzars, the palace, the Diwan-i-Aam, the court, the harem etc. It is a must read for anyone who fancies the Mughal Empire. One of the most beautiful books I have read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Twentieth-Wife-A-Novel/dp/0743428188

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.indusundaresan.com/Default.aspx

The Prince and The Pauper – Mark Twain

Prince and PauperTitle : The Prince and The Pauper

Author : Mark Twain

ISBN-10: 0140436693

ISBN-13 : 978-0140436693

Paperback : 224 pages

The Plot :

Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince and The Pauper’ is a classic tale of identity exchange. Beautifully written, this story is set in 1547 England during the reign of King Henry VIII. The main characters are, as the name suggests, a prince named Edward Tudor and pauper named Tom Canty, who bear an uncanny resemblance to each other.

The only life that the pauper has known involves begging all day long, sleeping on an empty stomach and being on the receiving end of a harsh beating from his father and grandmother every night. The prince on the other hand is the most celebrated child in all of England. He has every comfort he can think of but it all come with certain formalities and ceremonies that he has to abide by. To escape the hunger and the pain of the thrashings, Tom builds up an imaginary world where he is a king and retreats into this world every night. Come day light he is utterly disappointed and his only wish in life is to meet a real life prince. The only thing Edward longs for is to play in the mud and the river as he pleases but is not allowed these ‘luxuries’ on account of his position.

One day it so happens that the prince and the pauper happen to see each other and realize how alike they are and how the other has the life they dream of. So they decide to exchange clothes and to pretend to be each other. During the course of this the price sees the difference between how people of different classes are treated in his kingdom. He pauper at the same time learns about the charmed life the prince lives.

They both have a series of adventures, including threats to their life, escaping captivity, regal dinners, matters of the state and law, gangs of thieves and a prison stint. Along the way the two boys make strong allies who help them adjust to their new roles without any knowledge of the switch. In the end the real prince has to return to his rightful position to take the throne after his father, King Henry VIII passes away, but no one believes he is the real prince. With a nail biting finish, the story concludes with a very positive note.

What I personally loved in the book were the multiple instances that show the innocence of children and the way it is juxtaposed with the cruelty and wickedness of adults. I also like the language of the book, being written in the Victorian style that gives it a sort of formality. It transported me to a different era, and I love that aspect of a book. Overall it is a very good read and I highly recommend it.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Pauper-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140436693/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374116118&sr=1-4&keywords=the+prince+and+the+pauper

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.cmgww.com/historic/twain/index.php