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.
Indu Sundaresan’s novels are poised with such skill and exquisite details that one can’t help but immersed in the rich world of Mughals. She weaves a tapestry of love, romance, opulence, zenana politics, rivalry and treachery which call out to the reader. A world of enormous power and velvet lined cruelty.
The Twentieth Wife is a historical novel set in India under the rule of Mughal Empire in 17th Century. During Emperor Akbar’s regime when India was going through its Golden period, destiny was preparing an ordinary girl to become an empress in her future. By the virtue of her sharp mind, intelligence and enchanting beauty she would one day became Emperor’s Jehangir’s most trusted and loved companion. Mehrunnisa who is also known as Nur Jahan, the ordinary woman who became Emperor’s Jehangir’s Twentieth Wife and his true love was a daughter of an ordinary Persian refugee Ghias Beg, who fell in love with Prince Salim at the age of eight while looking at him through zenana balcony. When Prince Salim fell hopelessly in love with Mehrunnisa in her youth, things didn’t go well for them. Failed loveless political marriage, years of separation and lots of political drama and turmoil took them to bring together.
The essence of this book does not lie in knowing what happen next coz we all know that part, where Jehangir married Mehrunnissa and their marriage lasted for a lifetime. What makes this book one seamless read is the beauty of its unfolding.
Author has carefully done her research and so flawless is her attention towards history and detail that where ever embellishments she may have made, whatever creative license she may have taken with the actual events remain unnoticed. The book has also provided a list of main characters at the front, which is very helpful. But I wished that it had list all the characters though coz many of them had similar names which crafts confusion at times.
This is not just a love story but a story of women’s role in the Mughal Empire and how they were able to influence and outline the history even though they don’t have any official power or any rights at all. It showed ambition- not only of men, of the lower classes, of children’s – but also from women. The women’s in the book were not either degraded or idealized (which happens often) but are portrayed as flesh and blood.
Personally I loved this book for its logical, intelligent remarks made from time to time and how facts and fiction are combined with history and romance which gives this novel its own uniqueness. But in the end author also mention about the next book which carry forward the story of Nur Jahan and how she became one the most powerful Empress of India.