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BENEATH A MARBLE SKY: A NOVEL OF THE TAJ MAHAL
JOHN SHORS

McPherson & Company

May 1, 2004

Historical Fiction

ISBN #: 0929701712

324 pp. trade paperback

 

"We speak sometimes in the night; talk of our Taj Mahal, or our child. He still calls me Swallow." This is the poignant story of grand, deep love and the tribute to that love as narrated by Jahanara, the daughter of the 17th Century Emperor of Hindustan, Shah Jahan, and his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Shah has been privileged to marry a woman, both intelligent and wise, whom he adores. So much does he worship her that he orders the building of the Taj Mahal to house her tomb, an edifice whose beauty and magnificence still endures.

But all is not well in the Shah's kingdom. Beginning with an arranged marriage, Jahanara suffers unspeakable indignities at the hands of her husband and from the cruelty of her brother, Aurangzeb. For he wants the throne that is destined from his gentler, scholarly, brother, Dara. The animosity between all threatens to undo Jahanara's intelligent, independent and spirited nature inherited from both her parents, as well as dividing the Shah's kingdom.

But all is not gloom, as Jahanara meets Isis, the architect and director of the Taj Mahal. Their love deepens to mirror that of her parents, a love that must remain private but which continues with the assistance of the Shah himself. The above-cited quote is her own tribute to Isis, words as grand as his architectural dream envisioned and created to an unparalleled magnificence.

There is adventure and passion galore in this vibrant novel. But what must be accentuated is the beauty and perfection of John Shor's writing. For this is an historical "classic" in the truest sense of that term. Characters are finely and dynamically portrayed, with the reader feeling every moment of tension, pleasure, hatred, and deep, abiding love that flows through the senses but is embedded in mind and spirit as well. Descriptions flow with incredible images that show the beauty of the Taj Mahal in each planning and building stage, as well as of the people, food, culture, religious beliefs, philosophy, battles with enemies of the Shah's kingdom, and so much more!

You will not want this wonderful novel to end! Indeed, you will want to re-read it again and again, just to relish each part of it anew.

Words cannot convey everything about this masterpiece, Beneath a Marble Sky! You simply MUST read it for yourself!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on February 27, 2005

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