Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

The Twentieth Wife

with 2 comments

By Indu Sundaresan
Read: August 2006
Rating: Lackluster.

I love historical fiction. I love romance. And I love Philippa Gregory, despite not always liking what her characters do. So I should be able to get through a book like this, right? I’m still barely a quarter of the way through, and I’m putting it down. I am not a happy Git. I get very upset when a book I should enjoy, something with a great set up, etc, isn’t enjoyable. It’s like I’ve been cheated.

Luckily, I didn’t break the bank on this one. It was on the B&N discount shelf and I got it for about five dollars. I still feel gypped of a good read. Screw the money.

I’m also disappointed because The Twentieth Wife has some good reviews. It also has some poor ones. This will be one of the latter.

Honestly, I can’t find a natural place to begin the summary. I tried to explain it to my father earlier and had to keep changing focus.

On the one hand, it’s a historical about how Mehrunnisa became the favored wife of the Mughal Emperor (circa 17th century) and the most powerful woman in the region. On the other, it’s about this little chit Mehrunnisa who has set her sights on the prince–who is a drunkard and so spoiled that he feels he’s worthless until his father dies and hands over the crown. Very unlikable. Yet, the few ocassions on which they’ve met, it’s all typical romance cliches. Burning touches and such. Poorly handled.

I’ve seen Mehrunnisa go from age 8 to age 20, and I’m not impressed. At 8 she sees the power the women of the emperor’s harem have and she wants it. She sees the prince and wants him. But at 20 she’s hardly any more developed. She seems to have resigned herself to her arranged marriage (to a jerk, of course) but–well, she’s just sort of a lump. For the most scheming and ambitious young woman in the empire, she’s very blah.

Salim, on the other hand, is a bona fide idiot. I’ve stopped reading here because he’s proven himself unworthy of anyone’s true love. His father has sent him to war so that he can prove himself a worthy heir (har har). Salim allows himself to be pushed out of the line of communications and spends his days out hunting instead. On one such jaunt he comes across a tiger cub, and he picks it up. And holds onto it. And ignores Mehrunnisa’s jerk husband when he warns him that the mother is probably nearby. Guess what? She is. And she tries to maul them, but the jerk husband kills her himself. Salim’s a dimwit. He seems to listen to whatever his advisers say, and spends the rest of the time passing out from drunk and opium in the middle of his entertainment.

The only thing going for this book is the research wound into it. If you wanted a history of the Mughal empire that was slightly more interesting than the average textbook, this might be a candidate. (Save the many factual inaccuracies.)

As a romance? Failed. As a story of people? Failed. As a historical? Mediocre.

I’m going to go read something light and fluffy with lots of sex now. Carly Philips, ho!


Written by Shen

August 10, 2006 at 12:54 am

2 Responses

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  1. Yes there are a great many cliches but on the other hand, from what I have read, the content is pretty faithful to the reality. As far as the romantic moments – they reflect the time, as does her resignation to her duty as a woman. Don’t forget that this was a time when people were killed for going aginst the religious codes…..she had no other choice if her family’s good name was to be upheld. I thought it was a brilliant book – probably one of the most engaging I’ve come across and whilst I respect your opinionm, I believe it to be an uneducated one


    August 29, 2007 at 6:15 am

  2. hey all, I was wondering if anyone experiences with online dating could recomend a good site. If not I was gonna go with singlesnet
    best to ask the community before I dive head first…thanks.


    October 10, 2007 at 5:55 pm

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