Book Review: The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sunderasan

As a kid I was always that little pesky grandchild who kept bugging their grandparents to tell them stories and on the risk of sounding cheesy I have to admit my favourites used to be fairy tales about kings and queens. As I grew up, I came across the subject of history and while the  other kids used to hate and curse it, I was the one to look forward to my history lectures and don’t even get me started about my excitement when we studied the mughal era. 
I was reminded of my interest in history when I recently picked the book The Twentieth Wife. The reason I purchased this book was that it was not really about the usual popular names of the mughal empire. Instead the book was about a name that has alot of gossip and theories attached to it and to be honest I am not really sure I have read more than a paragraph about her. The person I am referring to here is Mumtaz Mahal’s aunt, Mehrunnisa, more commonly known as Nur Jahan.

The book begins with the description of the life, the wealth and the glory of the Mughal Empire. It then introduces the story  of Ghias Beg, Mehrunissa’s father who come to India  from Persia as a refugee. The author has described Mehrunissa’s childhood in great detail without making it monotonous. She described her relationship with her parents, her siblings, her fascination with the Prince, how she ends up being Begum Ruqqya’s favorite as well as the politics and power play between not only the men in the Mughal Courts but also among the women.
If I have to talk about the highlight of reading this book then it has to be the character development. I am usually left really annoyed if there are too many characters in the book because most authors either end up giving them to much attention and loose focus of the protagonist’s story or they just introduce them and give them no attention at all which basically leaves a lot of question in the minds of the reader.
The Twentieth Wife however is definitely an exception. The story is full of characters but you never feel confused or lost about them. Each character has a proper story attached to them with a good beginning, a decent amount of details about their lives and most importantly a smart and satisfying end. I never felt that any of the characters were unnecessary and I don’t think I have been able to say this for most of the books I have read before.
When you are writing a story that has its roots in history, an important thing to keep in mind is to ensure that the reader doesn’t end up feeling that they are reading a textbook instead of a novel. Thankfully Indu, the author of this book  kept this fact in mind while structuring the story. The story has a good pace, the different stories merge together in such a beautiful manner and the overall narration is just flawless.
All in all, this book was definitely a great read and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next two in the series. Everything about the book is perfect and it just transported me back to the royal mughal era giving me such an interesting peek into the life of Noor Jahan. To be honest, books like these are the reason that I love reading so much and I would definitely urge you pick a copy.  
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