India Currents Magazine-December 2010/January 2011 | Ed. by Vandana Kumar
SHADOW PRINCESS by Indu Sundaresan. Atria Books, A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.: New York. March 2010. $25. 352 pages.
Indu Sundaresan completes her Taj Trilogy with a heavily-researched and expertly-written account of the life of Jahanara, the oldest of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz’s daughters. Spanning 35 years from 1631 to 1666, the novel provides adventure and conspiracy (sibling rivalries, the thirst for power, and the quest for greatness) in highly-enjoyable, absorbing, regal language.
Shadow Princess is a picture of 17th century Hindustan that sparkles with gems, gleams with marble, and tantalizes with the colors of rich fabrics and precious metals. Every character breathes, feels, and moves across the page, capturing the reader’s heart without reservation. This novel and its companions (The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses) are about the strength, cleverness, and determination of women wielding hidden influences in a patriarchal society. Showcasing the Taj Mahal, Shadow Princess is an exhilarating mixture of character and event, emotion and intrigue, extravagance and architecture. — Jeanne E. Fredriksen
CHEF by Jaspreet Singh. Bloomsbury USA. Paperback. 256 pages. $14.00.
Kirpal “Kip” Singh, a former military chef, is summoned to Kashmir to prepare a perfect, politically-correct wedding feast that he hopes will save his life. Having left service there 14 years earlier, Kip now embarks on a return journey filled with the painful baggage of his past and the pressing burden of his newly-diagnosed brain tumor.
As Kip’s slow train ride carries him from Delhi to his destination, he is held captive by the memories of his years in Kashmir: the kitchen and life instruction of his fiery mentor; the failed attempts to lose his virginity; and the intimidating presence of the Siachen Glacier where his father’s body lies frozen. Told primarily in flashback, this mesmerizing coming-of-age retrospect contrasts the harshness of war in a place of beauty with the fragility of life in a world of complex people and ideologies. Chef by Jaspreet Singh is simply told and gracefully illustrates that we are one despite our differences. — Jeanne E. Fredriksen
To discover other book reviewers’ choices, go here. Best Books of 2010