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The Mountain of Light Paperback – 8 Oct 2013
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"On one level, Indu Sundaresan's novel Mountain of Light is a fascinating tale about a mythical jewel, filled with adventure and romance, that draws the reader in. But on a deeper level, it is a keen and heart-rending examination of the costs of colonialism."--Chitra Divakaruni "author of Oleander Girl "
"Once again Indu Sundaresan has brought history to life in this well-researched novel tracing the story of the 186-carat Kohinoor diamond, through years of war and royal intrigue in the Punjab, to the time of English rule when the priceless gem is secreted overseas to Queen Victoria in England. Above all, it's her characters that stand out. From rich maharajahs to poor old women who sell chai to the soldiers, each person comes alive on the page. Whether you read The Mountain of Light for its dramatic story, its lush setting, or its vivid characters, this novel will give you insights into history that will change you."--Janet Lee Carey "Award-winning author of medieval fantasy "
About the Author
Indu Sundaresan was born in India and came to the US for graduate school at the University of Delaware. She is the author of The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses, Splendor of Silence, In the Convent of Little Flowers, Shadow Princess, and The Mountain of Light.
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The novel begins with the ousted emperor of Afghanistan, Shah Shuja, and his wife, Wafa Begam, who are being held as prisoners by the Punjab Maharajah, Ranjit Singh. If they give him the Kohinoor diamond, the Maharajah will aid the emperor in seizing back his throne.
The story is a complex one, weaving the history of the diamond with the volatile country of India in the 19th century, its people, politics, and how it was so strongly entwined with the East India Company.
The prose is rich and elegant, evoking sights and smells of the land and era while bringing to life many of the famous personages of the times. The author provided a brief history of the diamond at the start and helped clarify what was fact and what was fiction at the end. For those who love stories about the exotic, this tale is sure to please. Very highly recommended.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The story of the Kohinoor has been a fascinating one full of conquests and treachery. As it passed through the hands of changing dynasties, its myth grows. As the myth grows, it became more legendary and more desirable.
Modern India is the creation of the British. For thousands of years, the South Asia subcontinent had been a mishmash of kingdoms big and small. None had control of the entire subcontinent. And there was never any collective consciousness of one people until the anti-British sentiment created the Indian identity. The ownership change of Kohinoor coincided with the changing identity of India.
The Mughals acquired the kohinoor as a submission tribute. It was taken from them by the Persians as a war trophy. It was then stolen from Persia by a general who made himself king of Afghanistan. Then Rajit Singh of Punjab wrestled it from Shah Shuja of Afghanistan. In the end, it was removed from Punjab to England by the British. It is less of a curse than karma having the last laugh.
The end of an era is always a sad thing and the last king is always a tragic figure, especially if he is a helpless child. The civil war of succession after the death of Rajit Singh, the Lion of Punjab, was what really doomed Punjab. The British, the opportunist with the cunning of the jackal, swooped in and annexed Punjab and exiled the last maharaja, the boy Dalip Singh Bahadur.
This “novel” is well researched as is usual with Ms. Sundaresan’s works. The only problem with this book is that it’s in the episodic form. Each episode is a short story that gives a piece of the Kohinoor history. But, as short stories, it’s difficult to develop fully fleshed out characters and for reader to grow attached to them.
I suppose the reason that this book received 4 instead of 5 stars is that, somewhere along the way, this book lost a bit of charm that her other books had. Maybe it was the more "modern" setting, or perhaps the greater focus on the bumbling English aristocrats than the splendor of the Indian dynasties. The Twentieth Wife (and subsequent books in the series) has always been a favorite of mine. Either way, it's still a very good read. I do love how all of her books are tied into real people and real historical events - try Googling some of the main characters sometime, see what you find ;)