Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan is a masterpiece that has enthralled generations of Tamil readers. Many authors have written phenomenal books in Tamil literature after Kalki Krishnamurthy, but Ponniyin Selvan remains the most popular, widely-read novel. It has just the right mixture of all things that makes an epic – political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, huge dollops of romance, infidelity, seduction, passion, alluring women, unrequited love, sacrifice and pure love.
Finding the Angel is the debut full length romance by Rubina Ramesh and I must say the author has found her place. The story is rightly paced, neither too fast nor too slow. The hero, arrogant, attractive and damaged is bent upon retribution – the stuff fantasy is made of (though you wouldn’t like them in real life) He’s a man with loose morals and little respect for the heroine. However, the heroine’s love transforms him. A mystical touch to the traditional heirloom makes it more meaningful. Enjoy a glimpse of Indian royalty and sinful luxury in this blow-hot-blow-cold love story.
Warning *spoilers* ahead!
While I enjoyed the way the author writes, I found a few niggles. For instance, I wish he had voiced that he trusted her before he hit upon the evidence. Also, the girl was reminiscent of old Mills and Boon heroine, as at times she didn’t utter a squeak against the hero’s riding roughshod into her life. She could have displayed more spunk, I think.
All in all, a palatial fantasy romance. Read it for the royal setting and well paced story.
Rubina Ramesh is an avid reader, writer, blogger, book reviewer, and marketer. She is the founder of The Book Club, an online book publicity group. Her first literary work was published in her school magazine. It gave her immense pride to see her own name at the bottom of the article. She was about 8 years old at that time. She then went to complete her MBA and after her marriage to her childhood friend, her travel saga started. From The Netherlands to the British Isles she lived her life like an adventure. After a short stint in Malaysia, she finally settled down in the desert state of USA, Arizona. Living with her DH and two human kids and one doggie kid, Rubina has finally started living the life she had always dreamed about – that of a writer.
1857 Dust of Ages is a slim book with a story woven around the events presaging the Mutiny of 1857. It describes the role of British in weakening the Indian royalty and establishing more than a foothold in administration. The book is well researched, the language is simple and the romance which forms the central role in the novella holds attention.
The book is written in a back and forth way switching between past and present. The mystery of the unlikely marriage is maintained and highlighted by the growing dissension between the aristocracy and the British command. The language is passive at times and events jump forward in a ploy to serve the mystery.
Since the book is slim, the story could easily have been written as a novel depicting the whole story. As it is, the ending is abrupt and jarring and leaves the reader wondering why it has been divided into multiple volumes. A clear disclaimer regarding the continuity would also help the readers.
Read it for an imaginative glimpse for colonial India but be prepared to read other volumes to get the whole story.
Find the book details in the book spotlight on this blog:
Camp, Delhi Cantonment, 16 August, 1857.
Things have changed forever. A day spent in the company of my old friend Knox made it clear. These distances can never be bridged.
The pole of his tent snapped in the storm yesterday; and for the sake of old friendship, I offered Knox my humble abode. But his rancour was jarring. His determination to teach the enemy a lesson, the unshaken belief in the rightness of our mission– such bitterness asks too much of friendship and duty.
Earlier we went over the battlefield. One of our regiments was destroying the village near the bridge to prevent the enemy from getting cover in it. Elephants were pulling down the walls. The villagers stood by as their houses turned into mud while the monsoon clouds gathered on the horizon. Unfortunately, they were the Jats, who, for the most part, are our friends. We decided that the destruction of their homes and fields was necessary. Twenty-three men – their countrymen – were lying together in the ditch at the back of the village; we weren’t sure if they were the rebels. A party of Rifles killed then en masse, just to be sure.
We left the village with our bags swollen like raisins in water. And who can blame our light-fingered gentry? Armies are said to travel on their stomach.
At some distance from our camp, I can see the sun setting over the fort of Delhi. It isn’t much different from the first sunset I witnessed here years ago. How things have changed! We came with a mission – to know this exotic land, to bring the light of knowledge and civilization to its darkness. Now the memory leaves me embarrassed. These massive red walls made me uneasy even then. Today they mock our camp again. Whatever be the outcome of this devil’s wind, it has revealed the banality of our mission.
Knox’s bitterness is an expression of the anger in the camp. When the cannons are quiet, the silence resounds with confusion, with terror, with rage, but most of all with the question ‘Why?’ As we sit around a small fire every night, the question rages in every mind. ‘Why the mutiny? Haven’t we brought the glory of civilization to this land of superstition?’ These thoughts simmer as we deal with hunger, heat and rain.
But soon these questions will be forgotten. The winners will annihilate the other side. Already I see the madness in the eyes as rumours reach us from other places – Cawnpur, Jhansi, Lucknow. Madness will soon be let loose.
I often feel that the answers that elude me today were within my grasp a short while ago. They are somewhere near, yet unreachable, like the time gone by.
I promise to look for them once I have found her again. For she, I feel, holds a part of it.
So every evening, I try to escape this madness by thinking about her, Princess Meera of Navgarh, a rebel soldier and my wife. It is the third year of our marriage. Three years of tenuous links and fragile understanding. It was only a matter of time before an explosion happened. And it happened that eventful week when Navgarh too burnt in the fire raging all across India. The news that the sepoys in Meerut had rebelled spurred both of us. Did I expect Meera to be a dutiful wife when all her beliefs, her convictions pulled her in the opposite direction? Was I surprised on knowing that she was in Delhi, amongst the rebels? Would she be surprised on knowing that I have followed her as an enemy… a British officer? And as I follow her, I stand here once again, after five years, outside the walls of the Red Fort in Delhi.
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About the author
Please welcome Vandana Shanker, author of 1857 Dust of Ages. Vandana is here to share her views on research for historical fiction.
Take it away, Vandana.
Question: How difficult was it to manage the research? Did you innovate to fill up the gaps or stick to facts throughout?
As I wrote and researched for my book 1857 Dust of Ages, I learnt that writing historical fiction is different ball game altogether. And I had no idea, no formal training and I had plunged straight into it. On the way, I learnt a lot of things. I would try to put them together in Rules of writing Historical Fiction.
- Read a lot of stories. They could be fictional or non-fictional but they would create images of the era in your mind. When researching for my book, one book that stands in mind is William Dalrymple’s ‘The White Mughals.’ That had the germ of the story – an interracial romance. The rest of it came from various other fictional works, diaries and stories that I had read and heard over the years.
- Take notes. Lots of them and let there be gaps. They don’t have to be accurate. The notes would give you the larger picture whereas the gaps are the places where your story would evolve.
- Study old pictures and paintings. This is essential for evocative writing- words that evoke the senses. Since there aren’t many photographs of 1857, I turned to paintings of the British in India and Mughal era miniatures. I have integrated many of these paintings in my story – as clues to the past that Shiv and Ruth unearth Pictures give the details that writing often misses out.
- Go to the location. For me it was the Hop on, Hop off around Delhi. Being a Delhitte, I could capture the bustle of the city, but to see it from the point of view of an nineteenth century character required more. As I went around, I learnt so much more about Delhi. For the last scene of the series, I visited Roshanarabagh and QudisiaBagh. Despite living in the city all my life, I had never been there ever before.
- Use the Internet. That goes without saying. I read a lot of old diaries and letters because they were so important in the nineteenth century. Most of the archival access was through the Internet. The events of 1857, the little things like rumours and gossip, minor skirmishes, bigger battles – Google is where I found most of the information
- Find a balance. You are not writing history. It is fiction and it is meant for the contemporary readers. I spent a lot of time recreating the diaries and letters in the language that would not put off the readers. Some places I have taken some liberties with the facts though I did stick to the broader details.
- Start writing. There is a time to stop the research and start writing because research is so seductive. As one delves deeper, it becomes a distraction especially in the day and age of the Internet. But we aren’t here for a history lesson. So as you do research, keep write simultaneously. That is the real job. Once you have the picture in mind, close your eyes and imagine and then get down to recreate it in your words
Thank you, Vandana. It was enlightening to hear your views. As an author of historical fiction, I agree that it won’t do to turn your research into a history lesson, and holding a deep interest in history as I do, I know it’s all too easy to get immersed in delving the details of the bygone eras. Indian history is so rich and engrossing a subject that one cannot help it. At the same time, it’s really important to get research done accurately to give an authentic feel to the era. I myself love the 500ADs and write about Maharajas and princesses, but I look forward to reading about the Rule in your book. It was lovely having you here.