Beneath A Marble Sky, John Shors, Penguin Group, 2004, 344 pp
This historical novel about the building of the Taj Mahal, is a big seller at the store where I work and a reading group favorite around the country. I probably would have skipped it but two of my reading groups picked it, so now I can sell it knowing that it is a perfectly good example of the historical novel genre.
It is also an unabashed romance novel written by a man. Two love stories entwine: that of the last great Emperor of Hindustan and his favorite wife plus an illicit but passionate affair between the Emperor's daughter Jahanara and Isis, the architect of the Taj Mahal. Another obvious great love is the author's for that period of Indian history.
With plenty of action, intrigue, adventure and passion, the story is never dull. Shors addresses the conflicts between Hindu and Muslim, the dichotomy of force versus reason in ruling a country and the theme that force usually prevails but great works of art are born out of reason and passion.
One of the reading group members complained that the princess Jahanara is like the female Indiana Jones. So? What is wrong with that? She is quite a fabulous heroine. Are our reading group readers becoming buried in postmodern cynicism? Now I am trying to think of a recent literary novel with a fabulous heroine.
(This book is available on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)