Wednesday, February 15, 2012

World of Words Wednesday - The Twentieth Wife/A Waltz at Midnight

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan: 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). This journey is portrayed by Sundaresan like a vivid painting rich with detail and character.
After being abandoned by her parents because they cannot afford to keep her, fate returns her to her family and their luck turns for the better. Her father becomes an esteemed noble in Akbar’s court and during one of her visits to court, she has her first glance of Prince Salim. Mehrunissa decides then and there that she will marry Salim. Life and circumstances end up seeing her wed to Ali Quli, a soldier and a life away from Salim. Years later after the death of her first husband, she returns to achieve her dream and become Noor Jahan.
Mehrunissa does appear as manipulative and ambitious while the other queens are not any less so, from Akbar’s wives to Salim’s wives and this just helps provides an insight into the women of that time.
The book also includes the stories of Salim, Akbar, and Mehrunissa’s family. Sundaresan’s description of Mughal India in its spendor, 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.
Rating: A
This book - The Twentieth Wife - goes towards both the Romance Reading Challenge for February and the South Asian challenge-.

A Waltz at Midnight: 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. 
Disclaimer: Received a digital ARC from NetGalley. This is my honest review of the book. 

This book -A Waltz at Midnight - goes towards the Romance Reading Challenge for February
Wednesday 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

Photos above: L - From Discovery Tours, R - Wikimedia

For 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")[1] is a small ceramic or glass bottle found frequently by archaeologists at Hellenistic and Roman sites, especially in cemeteries.[2] Its most common use was probably as a container for oil, though it is also suited for storing and dispensing liquid and powdered substances. Some finds date into the early Christian era.[3] From the 2nd to the 6th century they are more often made of blown glass rather than clay.[4] A few examples are silver or alabaster.[5]
Unguentaria were used as product packaging in commerce and for funerary practice. They are distributed throughout the Mediterranean region of the Roman Empire from Palestine to Spain, and north into Britain and Germania. Their manufacture was nearly as widespread.[6]
Image source: Wikimedia

For Wordless Wednesday
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.


  1. Your words are new to me. When I saw peregrinate, I thought of a peregrine falcon and can't help but wonder if the words are related. I love the rainbow photo!

    1. thank you.. i did not think of peregrine falcon, though I should have considering my son is always spouting names of birds nowadays..:)

  2. Replies
    1. thanks for visiting.. loved your WW as well

  3. I thought of peregrine falcons too. I've seen the word as peregrinations, but not as peregrinate. I know the word unguent, which is like ointment, so it makes sense to have an unguentarium to store it in.

    1. did not think of unguent when i saw that word!

  4. That was a very ENLIGHTENING post!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

    1. thank you, it was an Entertaining and Educational Experience for me to write it too


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