Historical novel set in India (“…experience the echoes of footsteps past”)
- Book: The Last Queen Of India
- Location: Jhansi
- Author: Michelle Moran
The eye catching cover is an excellent opener to this novel set in mid 19th Century India, a tumultuous time in the history of the country.
India is under the full thumb of British rule, creeping and insidious, now wielding immense power after establishing a mere trading company, the British East India Company. As the characters quip, the camel popped its nose into the tent of India and now the whole camel has entered and flattened an entire nation. The English de facto “know nothing about the people they came to conquer“.
For the Indians in power it is very much about treading a fine line. Play along with the British and keep the situation balanced, or join the ever increasing ranks of the disillusioned and support the pockets of mounting rebellion.
At the court of the Rani and Raja of Jhansi opinion is divided. The Rani, Queen Lakshmi, has nailed her colours to British mast, appeasement and co-operation through words and negotiation is preferable, but others in the court would choose a different path. Her husband, meanwhile, is one for acting and dressing up, and struggles to sire a son to ensure lineage, and thus she has to manoeuvre herself into the position of power at the court.
To support her endeavours, she has her own, all female imperial guard, the Durgavasi, and Sita is the member whose path we follow – from her humble village of Bawar Sagar, where all women live their lives behind the walls of their homes in Purdah, to the jewel rich court of the Rani. Naturally there is spiteful behaviour and jostling for power amongst the group, but Sita holds her head high. She is amassing her pay for a dowry for her little sister Anu, and that, whilst maintaining a strong moral backbone, is her singular focus.
As the British ramp up control, decisions have to be made and Sita is caught up in furore, as things escalate after the Circular Memorandum – issued by the British – whereby local women are plucked from their communities and forced to service the english soldiers.
Author Michelle Moran ploughs a very steady and illuminating path between fact and fiction and has created a gripping and informative read that really evokes this period of Indian history. An excellent read to experience the echoes of footsteps past if you intend to visit the country. 5* from us.
This review first appeared on our blog