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A monument to undying love

  • Aug 9, 2010
A romantic reconstruction of imperial life in 17th century India, "Beneath a Marble Sky" recounts the turbulent story of princess Jahanara, the daughter of the emperor who commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal as a fabulous testament to the overwhelming love of his wife. Well educated, literate, a wily diplomat, savvy political advisor and a bright, witty conversationalist and companion at a time when Muslim women were held in particularly low esteem, Jahanara has been well taught by her mother who bequeathed the solemn responsibility for the care of her ailing father to Jahanara on her death bed.

Now an elderly woman herself, the story is told in the form of a flashback narrated from Jahanara's point of view as she relates the fascinating, complex, violent and disturbing history of her family to her grand-daughters. Her soft spoken, pacifist eldest brother Dara, the rightful heir to the imperial throne dreams of the day he can see the Muslim community in peaceful co-existence with those professing the majority Hindu faith. In complete contrast, her younger brother, Aurangzeb, is so consumed by jealousy of his brother's position as heir and the deep hatred of Hindus whom he labels godless heretics, that he spends his entire life plotting the coup and the civil war necessary to steal the throne from his father and brother. Jahanara's story, set against the backdrop of the construction of the Taj Mahal also tells of her unrequited impossible love for Isa, architect of the Taj Mahal and a commoner that Jahanara can never marry and the exquisite pain of her arranged, political marriage to Khondamir, an ugly, evil, conniving merchant with some very sleazy, distasteful sexual proclivities.

"Beneath a Marble Sky" is many things for many readers - an accomplished historical fiction with lots of savory details for time and place; a compelling political page-turner loaded with intrigue, violence, passion and pathos; as well as a powerful moving romance that tells of three distinctly different but heart-warming relationships that come to fruition in ways that will draw a sigh and a smile from even the most romance-phobic male readers.

My taste in historical fiction would have enjoyed more time spent on the context of the story - more background, for example, as to the religious tensions that were so central to the story and perhaps a little more detail describing the common man's daily life in a setting which to us is so completely exotic and foreign. But, to his credit, Shors did not overstate his case or overstay his welcome by producing a needlessly padded heavyweight door-stopper which, sadly, is often the case with contemporary historical fiction authors. Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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August 09, 2010
What an eloquent review. Well done, Paul.
August 09, 2010
Thanks, Linda. I hope you'll enjoy the novel as much as I did.
More Beneath a Marble Sky: A Love S... reviews
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
The passionate, lush and dramatic re-creation of the love story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal, an elegant work of art. Even for the most ardent history-phobes, the story is so beautifully told, you'll hardly be aware of the fact that you're reading historical fiction at its very best.
review by . July 11, 2009
In "Beneath a Marble Sky," novelist John Shors makes ample use of literary license as he tells the story of the inception and creation of one of the world's most beautiful tombs -the Taj Mahal. Told in the first person by Mughal princess Jahanara, daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Arjumand, "Beneath a Marble Sky" follows the tradition of novels with a seraglio flare like "The Red Tent: A Novel, " "Sarah: A Novel (Canaan Trilogy)" and "Tamar" that concentrate on the trials of …
review by . September 28, 2006
John Shors has the gift. It is as simple as that. In BENEATH A MARBLE SKY he has created a stunning love story woven through the interstices of the 16th century Hindustani building of the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the world, a place on earth where Paradise touches mortals in a magnificent mausoleum for the beloved wife of the Emperor. Not only is this a symphonic novel of surpassing craftsmanship and beauty, it is also a book that informs the reader about the differences between Muslim …
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Paul Weiss ()
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   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Shors's spirited debut novel tells the story of the eldest daughter of the 17th-century emperor who built the Taj Mahal. From her self-imposed exile, Jahanara recalls growing up in the Red Fort; the devotion her parents, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, had for each other; and the events that took place during the construction of the fabulous monument to their love. Although Jahan is the emperor and has many wives, Mumtaz (he calls her Taj) is his soul mate, a constant companion and wise political consultant. She even travels with him into battle, where she eventually dies giving birth to their 14th child. Fortunately, she has the foresight to begin preparing her favorite daughter, Jahanara, by instructing the girl in the arts of influence and political strategy. Thus the young woman is able to pick up where her savvy mother left off. From then on it is Jahanara who advises the emperor, often instead of her dreamy brother, Dara, who is the rightful heir to the throne. It is she who helps with construction of the magnificent mausoleum for Mumtaz's remains and who falls in love with its architect, Isa, a man whom she can never marry. And it is she who leads a failed effort to defend the throne against a coup by her evil brother, Aurangzeb. With infectious enthusiasm and just enough careful attention to detail, Shors give a real sense of the times, bringing the world of imperial Hindustan and its royal inhabitants to vivid life.
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Books, Cafe Libri, Historical Fiction, Taj Mahal, India Fiction


ISBN-10: 0451218469
ISBN-13: 978-0451218469
Author: John Shors
Publisher: NAL Trade

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