The Feast of Roses is a sequel to The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. The book takes off from where the first on ended the life of Mehrunissa after she becomes Empress and Jahangir favorite wife. The undoubted favorite of Jahangir, she not only wants the absolute hold & control of zenana and eventually in Mughal Empire too.
In this book Indu Sundaresan unveils Mehrunissa slowly and very gracefully, as intelligent, beautiful and thoughtful women. An ordinary women who rose to achieve power, fame, wealth and success in a male dominated society in Mughal Dynasty is quiet an aberration in itself. It was not just beauty but her brains which made Jahangir and the entire Mughal Empire to bow in front of her. Mehrunissa was more of a man than any other man in that Mughal Era. In fact she was actually running the show behind Jahangir. People will be left wondering how a 30 plus mother can so enchant the Emperor to an extent where she is given the same foothold over the court proceedings, where no woman even Ruqaiya Sultan Begum( Empresses of Emperor Akbar) has ventured out before.
The detailed descriptions of the palaces, the costumes, court clothing, food and architecture are straight out of some Mughal Paintings, at some places one feels like you are watching a colorful periodic movie of that Era. The relationship between people, ambition, the scheming and heartbreaks are truly believable. It must be quite challenge for the author to build the dialogues, motivations and an intimate storyline about a known historical figure where the historians have written a tantalizing small morsels about her in their 17th century accounts of Akbar’s court. But in Sundaresan book Mehrunissa is no ordinary women/ Empress but can be quite powerful and ruthless towards other.
Although the novel is all about the angst of a mother and the haughtiness of an Empress, her undying hunger for absolute power at any cost and her determination to destroy whatever stands in her way, even her daughter’s happiness is so well brought out in words. This novel doesn’t carry the enchanting experience which The Twentieth wife had. But again good writing by Indu Sundaresan, her clear research and facts about Mughal history.
Good book overall but get dull in between when English & Portuguese politics was dragged for a longer term. Also the insights of Jagat Gosain life and politics was neglected.
So good luck for history lovers but a hard luck for those who are looking a beyond imagination story of historical love and struggle for power.