The Twentieth Wife

The Twentieth Wife

eBook - 2002
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An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire.
She came into the world in the year 1577, to the howling accompaniment of a ferocious winter storm. As the daughter of starving refugees fleeing violent persecution in Persia, her fateful birth in a roadside tent sparked a miraculous reversal of family fortune, culminating in her father's introduction to the court of Emperor Akbar. She is called Mehrunnisa, the Sun of Women. This is her story.
Growing up on the fringes of Emperor Akbar's opulent palace grounds, Mehrunnisa blossoms into a sapphire-eyed child blessed with a precocious intelligence, luminous beauty, and a powerful ambition far surpassing the bounds of her family's station. Mehrunnisa first encounters young Prince Salim on his wedding day. In that instant, even as a royal gala swirls around her in celebration of the future emperor's first marriage, Mehrunnisa foresees the path of her own destiny. One day, she decides with uncompromising surety, she too will become Salim's wife. She is all of eight years old -- and wholly unaware of the great price she and her family will pay for this dream.
Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensuous imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in the emotional pageant of Salim and Mehrunnisa's embattled love. First-time novelist Indu Sundaresan charts her heroine's enthralling journey across the years, from an ill-fated first marriage through motherhood and into a dangerous maze of power struggles and political machinations. Through it all, Mehrunnisa and Salim long with fiery intensity for the true, redemptive love they've never known -- and their mutual quest ultimately takes them, and the vast empire that hangs in the balance, to places they never dreamed possible.
Shot through with wonder and suspense, The Twentieth Wife is at once a fascinating portrait of one woman's convention-defying life behind the veil and a transporting saga of the astonishing potency of love.
Publisher: 2002
ISBN: 9780743436977
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc
Alternative Title: 20th wife

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Apr 29, 2016

Historical context
A part of history I haven't explored yet and am now interested in.

Not so great:
Repetitive description
Too much plot, not enough character development
Even though the story centers around a woman's experience, most of the history written from that period was from a male perspective -- a good part, in fact, from English sources. That seemed to dominate the story a little more than I'd hoped and made it slightly less believable. The most developed character, IMO, is Ghias Beg, Mehrunnisa's father.

Overall: Enjoyable for me due to subject matter and the fact that I'm a sucker for historical fiction, but not as rich and thorough as I was hoping. I'm still going to read the next in the series because now I'm invested.

Jun 05, 2014

There was always a better than even chance that I wouldn’t like this book but an intriguing character and country lured me in.

This is the first installment in the story of Mehrunnisa, daughter of Persian exiles and wife to Emperor Jahangir. The story starts right at the moment of her birth and continues through her childhood, where she falls in love with her future husband, through the difficulties of her twenties, where conspiracies, dishonor and miscarriages threaten her happiness, to the age of 34 and her long wished for marriage to the emperor.

I think the most disliked part of the book for me was the two main characters. I found Prince Salim (future Emperor Jahangir) a spoiled child even though he is never an actual child in the book. Self centered, impressionable and ignorant, he causes a rift with his father and then all of a sudden when he becomes Emperor he’s decisive and brutal, it’s like he has a complete personality change. Mehrunnisa isn’t much better. I found the era and culture fascinating and the author did a great job describing the atmosphere, women and politics that were a part of harem life.

Jan 06, 2014

I am a student of Indian history and is particularly fascinated by Mughal times. This work of fiction by sundaresan swept off my feet and makes me want to read the sequel as well. The way she has weaved fact and fiction is stupendous and she deserves praise for keeping readers in a spell.

Oct 06, 2012

It's clear that significant research went into writing The Twentieth Wife. With that research as a backdrop, Sundaresan crafted a story of love and politics during the time of India's Mughal empire. Coupled with the use of unfamiliar terminology (I discovered only after finishing the book that there's a glossary in the back. Knowing this at the beginning would have been immensely helpful.), Sundarsen's uneven writing distracted from an otherwise interesting story of love, power and politics. Probably the best part of reading The Twentieth Wife was the introduction it provided to a history I knew nothing about.

Monica Loke
Jun 06, 2011

Love the culture and everything Indian. Beautiful story of Mehrunisa - the beloved empress of the Mughal Empire. The best historical novel I have ever read.

May 16, 2011

A great book detailing the life of Mehrunisa , before she got married to the emperor Jehangir.
It takes you back to that era, with great details about their lifestyles and practices.

Apr 11, 2011

Fascinating book - a long wait for her husband with intrigue galore!

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