Book Reviews: Beneath a Marble Sky

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beneath a Marble Sky
John Shors

Set during the 17th century, Shors' novel tells the story of the heartbroken emperor who has the Taj Mahal built in memory of his deceased wife. His brave daughter Jahanara tells the story of their family, which includes her love affair with the Taj Mahal's brilliant architect, Isa. It also discusses the family rivalries between her scholarly oldest brother and her power-hungry, evil brother.

I might not have ever picked it up if my book club hadn't chosen it. I knew very little about the building of the Taj Mahal before reading it and was fascinated to learn about the culture and traditions of the people responsible for the beautiful building. There are moments that feel melodramatic, but at the same time, the stakes are high. I liked that the novel spans such a long period of time. Jahanara and Isa's love has to withstand years of turbulent challenges, which strengthens it and proves it's not a fling.

I loved the character of Jahanara, though I was occasionally frustrated by the choices she made. Regardless of the decisions she made, she still showed a courage that is admirable, especially considering the times. Her dear friend and companion, a eunuch, was another wonderful character. He is loyal to the end, showing an unbelievable devotion.

The book tackles the building of an icon, a love affair, persecution of women, religious fanaticism and family feuds, which is a lot for a novel. Shors doesn't over reach his ability though and the book is a fast-paced read. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoy historical fiction with a great story.


Anonymous said...

This is a book about the building of the Taj Mahal? I never even considered that a book could be written about that, but reading your review I'm suddenly intrigued..

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Was it a good book for a bookclub?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Iris - This is the only historical fiction book I've ever seen on the topic.

Alexandra - It was a good book club book. The story doesn't provide as much discussion as the historical part, but it was a good one.