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Exotic, Erotic, Exemplary Prose Bathing Historical Fiction

  • Sep 28, 2006
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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 and Hindu religions, about the Persian Empire, about customs of caste, of worldviews, of architecture, and of the myriad flavors of a land too few of us understand.

Told in the words of one Princess Jahanara, the beautiful daughter of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan whose grief for the loss of his wife Arjumand - the Mumtaz ('taz' becoming 'Taj') Mahal - during childbirth results in his pledge to create the most beautiful mausoleum for his beloved's rest, the story unravels the many tangles of the royal family including the disparate brothers Dara and Aurangzeb, and eventually leads to a dangerous liaison between Jahanara (married to a loathsome beast) and Isa, the architect for the Taj Mahal.

Shors paces this complex story so well that it seems far shorter than the near 350 pages - and it impossible to put the book down once begun. Part of the glory of Shors' writing is his obvious research into the history, the customs, the idiosyncrasies of royalty, the social systems of the times, and even the flavors of the spices and foods and the colors and types of clothing that drape this novel in unforgettable tapestry. His characters are painted with vibrant tones and his narration breathes the exotic tenor of the times about which he writes. Few authors have been able to describe the mysteries of the actual Taj Mahal with the accuracy Shors is capable of producing. Yet the overwhelming effect of this novel is not that it recreates history: this novel transports the reader to a time when life was much different - and yet much the same as today!

There are many reasons to select books to read. Selecting BENEATH A MARBLE SKY celebrates our intellect, our passion, our need for knowledge of the past, and our luxuriating in brilliant prose. Highly recommended on every level. Grady Harp, September 06

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review by . August 09, 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 …
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 …
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Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … 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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