McPherson, 2004, 24.95, 324 pp.
Someone named Jahanara tells the truth of her lineage to her disbelieving grandchildren. Back in 1632, her father, the Emperor of Hindustan, Shah Jahan, mourned the loss of his beloved love buddy, his wife Mumtaz Mahal, one of many spouse in his harem, but to him she was his primary wife. He depended on her wisdom in all matters including war and politics. Foreseeing the future, Taj, as the Emperor affectionately called her, mentored her wisest daughter Jahanara to replace her as the regal advisor if misfortune should strike her down, which occurs during childbirth.
Jahanara became the grieving Jahan's right hand “man” instead of her brothers. She encourages her father to have the monument to his wife built and became the liaison with the architect Isa. As she and Isa fall into a forbidden love, her time at the royal court ends when a brother, Aurangzeb, violently takes the throne forcing her into exile after she is raped; now years later she tells her story to her descendents.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner
Shors's novel about the creation of the Taj Mahal is narrated by Jahanara, the eldest daughter of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Jahanara's formative years are spent understanding her future role as a representative of a Muslim emperor presiding over an empire populated by a Hindu majority. As Jahanara grows up, she begins to see the tensions between her brother, Aurangzeb, and the rest of the family, particularly with her oldest brother, Dara.
As Jahanara evolves into a remarkable young woman, her life becomes increasingly complicated. Her parents wed her to a wealthy silver merchant who only wants Jahanara as a wife to boost his power within the imperial court. This marriage pulls Jahanara from the intricate activities of the court; where the power struggles to succeed Shah Jahan have begun to dominate affairs. Aurangzeb, his hatred for the family growing, sees his fame as a warrior spread as he successfully conducts various military campaigns against the empire's many enemies. Dara, conversely, busies himself by studying philosophy and religion. Jahanara worries about Dara's indifference to matters of the court, and tries to warn her brother about the risks posed by Aurangzeb.
Mumtaz Mahal dies giving birth to her fourteenth child. Her death spurs Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum the likes of which the world has never seen to memorialize his beloved wife. The emperor employs Isa, a famous architect, to build what will become the Taj Mahal. Jahanara is asked to help Isa in this demanding task, which allows her to escape her dreaded husband. The pages really start to fly when Jahanara falls in love with Isa, and when civil war breaks out (pitting Aurangzeb against Dara and Jahanara) immediately after the Taj Mahal is completed.
This report prepared by Paul Benson