Carl Sagan once said of books that “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” While the books featured today were not written by someone ages ago, they do tell the stories of another time; and in doing so, enable us to interact with history. And this post is a way of me speaking to myself from years ago as well, for this is one more from the archives!
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A Voyage Through Time Within Books
The Twentieth Wife
Title: The Twentieth Wife
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Length: 380 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Washington Square Press (February 18, 2003)
Source: Library copy
Description: An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India’s most legendary and controversial empresses — a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire.
Mehrunissa – her story fascinates, draws us in and captivates us till we reach the end of the book! This is the first of Indu Sundaresan’s books for me and I loved it. The book follows Mehrunissa’s life from when she entered the world in a sandstorm, literally, to when she becomes Noor Jahan, wife of Jahangir (Salim). Sundaresan portrays this journey like a vivid painting rich with detail and character.
The Twentieth Wife is a book that is about knowing your goals, and then making sure you do all you can to achieve them. In Mehrunissa’s case, her goal is deceptively simple: to be Prince Salim’s wife. She makes this decision at age eight when she has her first glance of Prince Salim at his wedding. Life and circumstances end up seeing her wed to someone else and to a life away from Salim. Years later after the death of her first husband, she returns to achieve her dream and become Noor Jahan.
Through Mehrunissa’s eyes, we have a look into the manipulations and power struggles within the Prince’s harem; from Akbar’s wives to Salim’s wives including Mehrunissa herself. We also follow the lives of Salim, Akbar, and Mehrunissa’s family through this story.
Sundaresan’s description of Mughal India in its splendor, the harem life and politics, the scheming because of the temptation of the throne, the power the women hold – all of these keep the reader interested from beginning to end. She has perfectly blended fact and fiction with lots of research done to lend weight to the rich characters and storyline. Including relevant snippets from various 17th century historians and travelers at the beginning of each chapter lends the ‘factual aspects’ to the fictional account of Mehrunissa in this wonderful book.
A fascinating read that perfectly blends wonderfully researched historical fact with splendidly written fiction.
[May 2021 Addendum: I am wondering why I did not ever read books two and three of this trilogy yet. I am working on this right now, as I speak, well, update this post; and am reading Feast of Roses currently. Soon after that, I hope to read the third book in this trilogy – Shadow Princess so I can continue my voyage through time to this wondrous era]
Get It Here
A Waltz at Midnight
Title: A Waltz at Midnight
Author: Crista McHugh
Length: 65 pages (or well, 19,000 words)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Digital review copy from NetGalley
Description: New York, 1866: When her mistress receives an utterly unromantic letter from a potential suitor, servant Susanna Parkwell is asked to craft an appropriate response. Though hesitant to take part in the deception, Susanna agrees, never dreaming the scorned suitor will write back.
Theodore Blakely abhors being pressured by his family to marry, but he’s intrigued by the witty refusal he receives from “Charlotte”. After exchanging more letters, Ted believes he’s found a soul mate in his thoughtful and understanding correspondent, and asks permission to formally court her.
While racked with guilt over her lies, Susanna can’t resist the opportunity to meet Ted in person. So she poses as Charlotte at a holiday ball, where she vows to tell him the truth. But when the clock strikes midnight, will Susanna have the courage to reveal her identity and risk losing the man she loves?
This is a short, sweet, Cinderella-ish romantic novella. I always love reading books where most of the story is conveyed by means of letters exchanged between the characters or even in diary format where the main character writes in a journal in letters.
This book is set after the Civil War and Susanna along with her brother (injured in the war), is forced to live with her aunt because the war ended up leaving the siblings destitute. To keep a roof over their heads, Susanna has to work in the boarding house run by her aunt and play maid to snobbish debutantes. However, one of the debutantes is actually nice and when she requests Susanna for help in exchange for some money, Susanna is glad to as she can use the extra income. What starts off as an effort to thwart a suitor in the first response to his letter becomes a charming series of correspondence between Susanna and Teddy which keeps the reader occupied.
The ending was a little abrupt though and the story would have fared way better in my view with just one extra chapter.
So overall, a sweet super-quick read that felt rushed; and one that could have been great, but just stopped short of being so. But you can use it as a pick-me-up between more intense reads.
Get It Here
Disclaimer: Received a digital ARC from NetGalley. This is my honest review of the book.
Wondrous World of Words
May 2021 Addendum: So the words within this section below are from my original post; and as I look back at that acrostic I wrote, I want to rewrite it (a lot).. since the place I talk about – one that will definitely enable us to take a voyage through time – deserves better words than the ones I have written below. But I am leaving it as is for now.
My Entries for Wednesday Memes (From Original Post Dated Feb 16, 2012)
For Various Memes
For ABC Wednesday(E), Acrostic Only(Sri Lanka), Three Word Wednesday(ruin, foster, angelic)
Sacred Anuradhapura, enlightened tree
Ruins extensive and beautiful
Inspires feelings almost angelic
Love fostered by peace
Anuradhapura – home to the
Now oldest planted tree
Kings ruled 1300 years
Abandoned once, accessible now
Wondrous Words Wednesday
peregrinate v. [intrans.] ARCHAIC or HUMOROUS travel or wander around from place to place. peregrination n. peregrinator n. late 16th cent.: from Latin peregrinat- ‘traveled abroad’, from the verb peregrinari, from peregrinus ‘foreign, traveling’.
An unguentarium (plural “unguentaria”) is a small ceramic or glass bottle that was most probably used as a container for oil, and sometimes for storing and dispensing liquid and powdered substances. Many of these were made of blown glass, while a few were made of silver or alabaster. They have been most commonly found by archeologists in cemeteries, maybe owing to the fact that they were used for funerary practice. (2nd through 6th centuries; Roman
Image source: Wikimedia
A thing of beauty is a joy forever – this is definitely true. I saw this rainbow over our neighborhood two days ago and was so happy for a long time after seeing it.
And Now, the End of this Post
So dear reader, what are the books that have helped you take a voyage through time? Or have you taken a voyage through time by any other means?? Movies, TV shows, or …?! Do let me know. And have you read any of the books featured/mentioned in this post?