Monday, July 30, 2012

Beneath a Marble Sky


Have you ever wondered why the Taj Mahal was built?  Before this book, I had never been curious and therefore, never looked into it.  It is widely believed that the Taj Mahal was built by the emperor, Mumtaz Mahal, as a mausoleum for his third wife, who died during childbirth.  This wife was the emperor's favorite and because of his heartbreak, he commissioned the building of the beautiful Taj Mahal.

The book, Beneath a Marble Sky, is a historical fiction novel surrounding this true historical event.  The eldest daughter of this emperor and third wife just happens to also be their favorite child.  Jahanara grows up seeing the love that her parents share with each other despite the fact that their marriage was arranged.  Such love is unlikely in most marriages of political means and Jahanara hopes for what these two possess.  True love.

Unfortunately, Jahanara's arranged marriage does not bear fruit.  She begins trying to avoid her husband when her mother becomes pregnant yet again.  Because her mother knows of her unhappiness, she requests that Jahanara keep her company in the final weeks of her pregnancy.  Well...I think you can probably guess what happens next...Jahanara's mother dies in childbirth when labor finally begins.

The emperor, Mumtaz, is distraught for weeks until he decides to begin the process of building a worthy mausoleum.  An expert architect, Isa, is summoned and Mumtaz details his request.  Mumtaz wants a building that has never before been built; something that will be as beautiful to gaze upon as the emperor's former wife.  Because the emperor must run the country, he tells Isa to report to Jahanara for the day-to-day issues surrounding such a huge construction project.

This is a love story, it even tells you that in the subtitle.  So, of course, Isa and Jahanara begin to have feelings for each other.  But, because Jahanara respects her wedding vows, even though she doesn't care for her husband, and because Isa feels the same way, the novel takes an interesting turn.  While the two begin to have true, romantic feelings for each other, they manage to keep their relationship platonic.  When this finally begins to eat away at Jahanara, she turns to the only person she feels she can truly discuss the mechanics of love with...her father.

I'll leave you hanging at this point...because if your interest is piqued, then I imagine you'll pick this book up and I don't want to ruin it for you.  One thing I like about this book is how it's told.  Jahanara is relaying this story to her granddaughters.  So, in some regards, you know how some of this story is going to end...but, Shors just gives you enough information to wet your appetite for what really happens.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I really enjoyed it.  While this isn't my favorite book of all time, I still think it's pretty darn good.  Overall, I'd give it three out of five stars and recommend it for a good summer read.

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