The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan
Looking for the perfect winter escape? Well look no further! Step into the balmy, lush gardens of India’s most opulent palaces and lose yourself in the intrigue-both romantic and political-of royal life. Set during the reign of the famous Mughal Empire (think time of the Taj Mahal), this epic historical novel unveils the story of one of India’s most powerful empresses: Mehrunnisa.
I think I have read this book a total of 3 times. It is my go-to read when I want to escape and treat myself to a taste of luxury. The Twentieth Wife is like biting into a rich dessert-you want to savor every page! The decadent descriptions of jewels, silk-clad princesses and marbled palaces are a treat to the senses. However, do not mistake the sweeping beauty of the storytelling for a simple child’s fairy tale. This novel carefully recounts actual historical events, giving life to one of the most captivating times in Indian history.
I am always amazed at how the author artfully weaves together history and drama so that you don’t simply read about, but instead experience, this time period. You finish this book feeling thoroughly entertained and yet also very knowledgeable about the history of the Mughal Empire. Sundaresan is a true master of crafting historical fiction.
Without risking giving away too much of the story, The Twentieth Wife details the life of one of history’s most powerful women. Despite the many limitations of being a woman imposed by both her culture and era, Mehrunnisa overcomes impossible challenges to fight for what she wants and loves. The novel is both a love story and political thriller, full of romantic and diplomatic adventures. From arranged marriages to murders, battlefields to harems, The Twentieth Wife truly has it all.
In Love with the story? Continue the saga in the sequel
If you have completely lost yourself to imperial India and don’t want to leave, stay for the sequel, A Feast of Roses. Published just one year after The Twentieth Wife, this sequel continues the historic account of Mehrunnisa’s reign as India’s most powerful empress, focusing on her many accomplishments within the government and empire. I would argue that this novel is a bit heavier on the history and nuances of the empire /government than the first, but still a highly satisfying and enjoyable read. An added bonus? A Feast of Roses encompasses the story of Mehrunnisa’s niece, for whom the Taj Mahal was built. After reading this story you will have a newfound appreciation for this wonder of the world!
It appears that Sundaresan continued the story in 2010 with a third book to the “Taj Trilogy” titled Shadow Princess. I have not yet read this novel but hope to soon. Have you read it? Any thoughts?
So, as the winter blues set in treat yourself with the ultimate getaway to imperial India and visit with some of history’s most legendary characters. You won’t be disappointed!
To purchase your copy of The Twentieth Wife from Amazon, click here.
To purchase A Feast of Roses from Amazon, click here.